Winter 2005 Newsletter
KCSDV will host its second annual Safe Homes, Safe Streets Awareness Day and Reception: Putting the Spotlight on Sexual Violence on February 10, 2005.
“Our goal is to bring awareness to the public, and in particular to legislators, about the prevalence of sexual and domestic violence and the benefits of creating a state in which everyone is safe in their own homes and in the streets,” said Sandy Barnett, Executive Director of KCSDV.
The day-long event includes legislative and public awareness, a press conference, and an evening reception. Activities begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Kansas state capitol building, where KDSDV member programs will staff booths and later will visit Kansas legislators and provide education about sexual assault and domestic violence.
“We want to help legislators understand the reality of violence in the homes and streets of their own constituencies,” Barnett said. “We want the legislators to realize how many opportunities they have in their districts to make a difference.”
At 11:00 a.m. KCSDV will host a press conference at the Capitol. The day’s activities conclude with a 6:00 p.m. reception at the downtown Ramada Inn. The reception features Don McPherson, a former NFL quarterback who leads a movement challenging men to take responsibility for inappropriate and abusive behavior. Bob Stephan, former Kansas Attorney General, and Megan Bushell, Miss Kansas 2004, will be the hosts.
“The reception is helpful in getting more people together in developing a common vision of having safe homes and safe streets,” Barnett said, noting that the reception is for members of the public interested in violence issues as well as for legislators and member programs. Barnett stressed that the day isn’t just for legislators, but is an opportunity for everyone to get involved. “We are helping to build our obligation to build safe streets,” Barnett said. “That obligation belongs to all of us. It’s our duty as humans.”
Megan Bushell, Miss Kansas 2004, is the chairperson and co-host of KCSDV’s second annual Safe Homes, Safe Streets Reception on February 10, 2005. The Wichita native is excited to be part of the day.
“I’m looking forward to getting a lot more people involved and getting legislators more aware of sexual and domestic violence,” Bushell said. Bushell has been active in sexual and domestic violence work for four years. She started as a volunteer at Harbor House in Wichita while in high school. Now as Miss Kansas, she chose a platform of “Breaking the Silence of Domestic Violence.”
Even though she couldn’t focus her Miss Kansas platform on both sexual and domestic violence, she recognizes the link between the two.
“The connection between the two is very evident,” Bushell said. “Sexual violence along with domestic violence is a main concern for women today.”
During her one-year reign that began in June, she estimates she will talk to at least 35,000 Kansans about sexual and domestic violence. She travels extensively speaking to elementary, junior high, and high school students utilizing the program, “Expect Respect,” to discuss sexual and domestic violence. During presentations she leads a discussion with students to define and explain physical, emotional and sexual abuse. She addresses the common misconception that women are more likely to be raped by strangers than people they know.
The issue of sexual violence is personal to Bushell. “I’ve had friends and sorority sisters who have been raped, so I’m concerned, not only as a woman, but as a friend,” Bushell said. She also works to make people aware that women can be raped by their husbands and boyfriends.
Bushell works to make people aware of domestic violence as well. She became involved in domestic violence work after she learned that a close friend of her family was a domestic violence victim. She was shocked to discover that many of her friends were also victims. “I would have never guessed that they would be victims of domestic violence,” Bushell said. “I was unaware of domestic violence and how prevalent it was in our communities.”
After she discovered so many friends had been victims, Megan said it seemed natural for her to make domestic violence awareness her platform message during her reign as Miss Kansas 2004.
“Domestic violence kind of picked me as a platform,” Bushell said “There are so many myths about domestic violence,” Bushell said. “I learned that none of those myths applied.”
Her biggest lesson was that sexual and domestic violence occurs in all racial, social, and economic groups.
“Any person could be a victim,” Bushell said.
Bob Stephan, former Kansas Attorney General and co-host of the Safe Homes, Safe Streets Reception, has been involved in the sexual and domestic violence movements for decades.
“I’m very sensitive to the issue of domestic violence and realize the suffering that women go through at the hands of a mate,” said Stephan, referring to his childhood, marred by his father severely beating his mother regularly.
“She went through living hell for many years,” Stephan said, referring to his mother, who later divorced his father.
The issues relating to sexual violence were often part of Stephan’s work as a judge in Wichita from 1965-1978. He said juries and often judges seemed prone to not believing a woman’s story of sexual assault as well as at times believing it was the woman’s fault for being attacked. Stephan observed insensitivity towards the woman’s plight as well as how juries and some judges did not comprehend the tragedy of sexual assault.
“Education is so important to those in the justice system to explain what occurs and how the women are victimized,” Stephan said, adding that people find it difficult to fathom the enormity of the sexual assault when they’re not directly involved.
He said that there is not nearly enough education about sexual violence for professionals working in the justice system.
“Victims need to have more of an opportunity to tell their stories to law enforcement classes, to judicial conferences, to court officers as well as judges themselves,” Stephan said. “We have to make people aware of the tragedy of the crime.”
Educating justice system personnel is particularly important in the aftermath of the highly publicized Kobe Bryant rape trial. Stephan followed the case in which a female hotel employee accused the NBA basketball star of raping her at the Colorado hotel at which she worked.
The decision of the judge in the case to allow the defense to present information on the accuser’s sexual history disturbed Stephan.
“I was horrified to see that,” Stephan said, worried that rape trials might become indictments of the victim’s personal lives rather than investigations of alleged rape. “I hope that’s not a trend in the future.”
Stephan said that the Kobe Bryant case demonstrates the need for trials to move expeditiously and for victims to be shielded from the media. Too much information about the accuser’s sexual past was released to the media, he said. It also reminds him of the insensitivity and ignorance of juries and judges towards victims of sexual assault he saw 40 years ago.
“The Kobe Bryant case is representative of the skepticism both during my tenure as a judge and today towards those who have been sexually assaulted or abused,” Stephan said.
Stephan is co-hosting the Safe Homes, Safe Streets Awareness Day Reception because he recognizes the need to educate the public about sexual and domestic violence, something he has been doing for decades.
“We have to continually work at awareness,” Stephan said. “You can never let up.”
A recent decision by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) falls short of completely addressing the safety concerns of victims of domestic violence.
In July HUD decided to remove the previously granted full exemption for all domestic violence service providers from providing victims’ personal information to HUD’s mandated human tracking system.
“There is no firewall or level of encryption that will prevent an abuser from gaining access to these human tracking systems,” said Cindy Southworth, director of the Safety Net Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV).
Often abusers will stalk their victims using any available resource. This shared data will give batterers another way to track and harm victims of domestic violence.
“Abusers work in all fields – as system administrators, in housing authorities or nonprofit organizations – victims must be exempt from these databases to ensure their safety,” said Southworth who also serves as NNEDV’s director of technology.
HUD’s human tracking system, the Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS), collects, tracks, and allows for sharing detailed and comprehensive personal information about the homeless, including victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking who seek shelter.
Information required for HMIS includes name, date of birth, ethnicity/race, social security number and gender. Optional information includes last known address, program entry and exit date, disabling condition, and veteran status.
“Confidentiality is the backbone of providing solid domestic violence and sexual assault services,” said Kim Pentico, KCSDV Economic Justice Coordinator who works on housing issues affecting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. “This mandated tracking system threatens the assurance of confidentiality between advocates and victims in Kansas.”
“We also have concerns about law enforcement access to any HMIS system,” Pentico said. “Current regulations allow law enforcement to simply ask for any individual’s HMIS information and receive it.”
This is particularly troubling to providers given that abusers have been known to impersonate police when calling shelters and agencies trying to track down their victims.
Providers are concerned about victims’ HMIS data being released to attorneys, court personnel, and other professionals working in the criminal justice system. Currently, domestic violence and sexual assault services providers have explicit procedures when handing these requests. It is unlikely that HMIS administrators will go to those extraordinary lengths to protect victim confidentiality.
In October HUD attempted to clarify its HMIS data collection standards. The clarification was a surprise to domestic violence advocacy groups because previous standards provided a crucial exemption, allowing domestic violence service providers to provide non-identifying information about all victims. Earlier standards also granted any community service provider an exemption from entering victim-identifying data of domestic violence victims using other services such as food pantries and transitional housing programs.
“Without a full exemption these databases will continue to violate the core promise of confidentiality,” said Lynn Rosenthal, Executive Director of NNEDV, referring to the partial exemption HUD gives to some domestic violence programs in certain instances.
The October decision does allow some domestic violence service providers to refrain in certain instances from sharing names and social security numbers, but it does not exempt providers from collecting and sharing date of birth, ethnicity/race and gender, all of which could easily identify a woman and her children, particularly in rural areas.
The National Network to End Domestic Violence, working closely with KCSDV, other state domestic violence coalitions, local programs and allied groups, strongly urged HUD to immediately reinstate the domestic violence exemption, given the lethal risks to victims and their children.
Here in Kansas, KCSDV is working with state allies and local communities to address confidentiality concerns and to work on solutions for Kansas victims and their children. “In response to public outcry, HUD has made an attempt to change their policy,” said Rosenthal, but they still fall short of fully addressing the lethal safety concerns of victims of domestic violence.
A special thanks to NNEDV for the use of its information from the NNEDV website.
- Kim Pentico, KCSDV
- National Network to End Domestic Violence: www.nnedv.org
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: www.ncadv.org
This is the second installment of a two-part series examining the barriers for battered immigrant women. The 1st installment, in the Fall 2004 issue, examined the unique power and control dynamics for battered immigrant women.
Advocates navigate complicated systems on a daily basis in the quest to help women find resources and services. When advocating for immigrant women, an advocate must also learn to navigate the intricacies of immigration systems and laws.
Immigrant women want to be informed of their rights. Many have been lied to by their abusers about what rights they do or do not have. Immigrant women need to know they have a right to be safe, have a right to legal assistance, have a right to pursue a criminal case, and have a right to access benefits for themselves and their children.
An immigrant woman’s right to be safe means that she can access shelter and rape crisis centers, she can call for police protection, and she can apply for a protection or stalking order, she can report a crime to the police. To access these services, immigrant women must often overcome language and cultural barriers. For example, if a woman calls the police during a violent episode or after having been sexually assaulted and the responding officer can’t communicate with her, the officer may turn to the batterer for information or may not record essential evidence in the case. This can become more dangerous for the woman. The same may hold true for accessing shelters or the courts. If the batterer has a better command of the language and culture, then the immigrant woman is at continued risk. If a perpetrator of sexual violence tells a woman he has assaulted that no one will believe her because she is an immigrant or doesn’t speak English, she remains at risk for future violence. Therefore, advocates and the community must address these concerns in order to ensure safety for immigrant women.
An immigrant woman’s right to legal assistance includes a right to competent assistance with her immigration case, her family law case and her criminal case. However, this does not mean she will be able to get free representation. Finding free legal resources often takes both hard work and luck.
Accessing public benefits is a complicated process for immigrant women. The system is set up to provide benefits based on a woman’s immigration status, date of entry to the United States and, for some benefits, length of time in the U.S. The system is difficult to navigate and requires keen attention to small details contained in the language of the policies. Therefore, it is essential to have a good understanding of benefit policies and procedures. It is also important to be aware of services available to anyone regardless of their immigration status, such as food banks, crisis centers and shelters, emergency health care, and clothing banks.
There are a couple of legal options available to immigrant women that were initiated by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994. For battered immigrant women, this Act allows them to petition for permanent residency without the help of their abusive citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouses. This law created a way for a woman to leave her abuser without fear of deportation. This is often referred to as the “VAWA self-petition.”
In 2000, Congress reauthorized VAWA and increased protection to women not married to a citizen or LPR or who may be victims of other crimes besides domestic violence. This law authorized a crime victim visa. This visa (the U-visa) allows non-citizen women who have suffered harm from specific crimes to apply for immigration relief regardless of the status of the perpetrator. These crimes include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault and other violent crimes.
The VAWA self-petition allows certain battered immigrant women to apply for an immigration status without the help of their abusive spouse. Eligibility for this form of immigration relief is primarily dependent on the woman’s marital status and the immigration status of her spouse. A battered immigrant woman must meet the following requirements to be eligible for the VAWA self-petition:
- She must be currently married to or divorced from her spouse within the last two years;
- Her spouse must be a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident;
- She must have resided with the abuser;
- She must have married her spouse in good faith
- She must have suffered battering or extreme cruelty
- She must be of good moral character
With the help of an immigration attorney and an experienced advocate, the woman would complete an application, include supporting evidence for all of the above categories, and submit it to the Vermont Service Center. Upon receipt of the application, the VSC will review the evidence and may issue a preliminary determination, which means they believe the woman’s application is strong enough that it would likely be approved. With this preliminary approval, the woman becomes eligible for limited public benefits. Once her application is fully approved she is eligible for lawful permanent resident status. Because the process of becoming a lawful permanent resident may take a significant length of time, the woman may also be eligible to receive work authorization for this period of time.
Another quality of the self-petition is that it includes protection for immigrant children as well. Therefore, a child who has been abused by his or her citizen or lawful permanent resident parent is also eligible to file a VAWA self-petition.
The U-visa specifically addresses the need to provide immigration protection to non-citizen crime victims. It does so by offering non-citizen victims of certain crimes, (i.e. rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, incest, trafficking and other violent crimes) the ability to apply for a non-immigrant visa and eventually adjust to a lawful permanent resident status.
In order for a non-citizen crime victim to be eligible for the U-visa, she or he must meet all of the following requirements:
- She must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of one or more of the designated criminal activities listed in Section 1513(b)(3) of the VAWA 2000 Act;
- She must possess information concerning the criminal activity;
- She must be helpful, have been helpful, or are likely to be helpful to a federal, state, or local investigation or prosecution;
- She must obtain certification from an authorized federal or state official who is investigating or prosecuting the criminal activity; and
- The criminal activity must have violated the laws of the United States or occurred in the United States or the territories and possessions of the United States.
If the immigrant victim’s U-visa is granted, he or she is placed in deferred action or stay of removal status. During this time the immigrant victim is eligible for work authorization. However, he or she is not eligible for public benefits. After three years under a U-visa status, the Attorney General can adjust the immigrant victim’s status to lawful permanent resident. The Attorney General bases this decision on humanitarian need, public interest, or family unity.
The challenge with the U-visa is that no federal regulations have yet been issued for processing the applications. There have been interim guidelines set and U-visa applications have been filed. However, practitioners believe that there is still a risk that the application could be denied once the official regulations are adopted.
Immigrant Women Project
1522 K St., NW Suite 550
Washington, DC 20005
14 Beacon Street, Suite 602
Boston, MA 02108
383 Rhode Island Street, Suite 304
San Francisco, CA 94103
1730 North Lynn, Dr., Suite 502
Arlington, VA 22209
Angelica Lopez or Joyce Grover
220 SW 33rd, Suite 100
Topeka, KS 66611
Parts of this article were taken from the Legal Rights of Immigrant Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence training materials, conducted by Lesley Orloff of Legal Momentum. To get copies of these materials contact Legal Momentum, Immigrant Women Project at 202-326-0040 or at www.legalmomentum.org
A national expert will provide training to the newly formed Kansas Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board.
Neil Websdale, director of the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative, will provide training at the Board’s February meeting on how death reviews are performed and will share experiences of other states.
Websdale is author of Understanding Domestic Homicide, Policing the Poor: From Slave Plantation to Public Housing, and Rural Women Battering and the Justice System, which was awarded the 1999 Outstanding Book Award from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.
Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius created the 14-member Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board in October. Kansas becomes one of two dozen states to have such initiatives.
The Board will review all adult domestic violence-related fatalities in Kansas. It will clarify trends relating to the deaths, make recommendations for improvements to prevent future fatalities, and determine if adequate resources are available for those responding to domestic violence crimes.
Sandy Barnett, KCSDV Executive Director, and Susan Moran, Executive Director of SOS in Emporia, a KCSDV member organization, are on the Board.
Bob Stephan, former Kansas Attorney General and co-host of the Safe Homes, Safe Streets Reception, is chairman.
The Board met for the first time in December in order to develop organizational structure, to define protocols, and to develop a mission statement.
Rape is the only violent crime to have increased during the first half of 2004, according to a FBI report released in December. Among the violent crimes of murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault listed in the FBI¹s Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, rape was the only one to increase (+1.4%) from January – June when compared to data from the same period in 2003. Data for the report is collected from nearly 11,000 U.S. law enforcement agencies. The final report will be released in late 2005. This increase is in stark contrast to the decreases across the board in murders (-5.7%), robberies (-5%) and aggravated assaults (-0.9%).
The report can be found on the FBI website, www.fbi.gov.
During a car trip in the central part of Kansas, a KCSDV employee heard a radio deejay state the top ten ways a Christmas tree is different from a date.
The number one reason:
A Christmas tree doesn’t complain about being tied up and shoved in the trunk.
Laurie joined the Coalition in November. She will create and organize a public relations plan and media plan for KCSDV, as well as provide public relations and media support and technical assistance to KCSDV and member programs. Laurie has done PR and media work for nonprofits for five years. She received a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas, where she researched racism and whiteness in the news media.
Marie Landry joined the Coalition staff in November as the second attorney. Marie will provide technical assistance on legal issues regarding sexual assault and domestic violence. A graduate of Washburn Law School, she worked for Kansas Legal Services for several years in the field of family law with victims of domestic abuse and with children. She was also the director of Shawnee County Court Appointed Special Advocates for children who had been abused or neglected. She looks forward to meeting and working with the talented and dedicated advocates across the state.
Gloria re-joined the Coalition in October. She will be working to support the Coalition’s training efforts and to assist in organizing the new training facility following the move to the new building. Gloria worked previously with KCSDV on the Safety and Accountability project.
Almas joined the Coalition in October. She works in collaboration with Child Protective Services to implement policy changes that will improve services to battered mothers and their children. Almas is responsible for standardizing domestic violence programs’ policies on children, providing training and materials on child welfare issues and working to improve the Coalition’s communication and collaboration with the Kansas legislature. Almas began her work in advocacy in 1998 with Women’s Transitional Care Services, where she was a volunteer, staff member and on the Board of Directors over a four-year period. Her work includes advocacy and project management with organizations outside of the U.S., including in India, the Palestinian Occupied Territories and, most recently, in London, United Kingdom.
Michelle started with the Coalition in October. She was previously with the Kansas Court of Appeals where she worked as the motions secretary for 3 ½ years. Michelle graduated from Washburn University in December 2003 with a degree in Communication and is currently working on her master’s degree at Baker University. She is also a volunteer at the YWCA Battered Women’s Task Force.
December of 2003.
KCSDV welcomes the expertise that these individuals bring to the Coalition staff.
For further information and registration for KCSDV and other trainings, visit our Trainings page.
This newsletter and KCSDV brochures are available online at: www.kcsdv.org/learn-more/resources/newsletters/
Computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear. The safest way to find information on the internet is to use a computer at a local library, a friend’s house, an Internet Cafe or at work. For more information about internet and communication technology safety, go to: www.kcsdv.org/safetynews/
This newsletter is published quarterly, hard copy and online, JAN, APRIL, JULY, and OCT. Deadlines for calendar and article submissions are DEC 1, MAR 1, JUNE 1, and SEPT 1. Submissions will be reviewed for content and space availability.
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