first fig

my candle burns at both ends…

Category: times a-changin

I’m Not Back Yet

Dear Readers (If you even still exist):

I’m sorry for my absence. Life has been hard. I’m starting to feel better and am hoping to resurrect this blog in the near future.
As you can see, I’ve tweaked the layout which is why I’m actually posting now, I’m testing this new layout. When I return, First Fig will be a much cooler place. So stay tuned.
Until then, please enjoy my latest post over at The Exponent:
How You Can Help A Victim of Domestic Violence

Every month or so I’ll get a call from a friend or acquaintance asking me for information to help a loved one involved in a violent relationship. We all know or will know a victim of domestic violence; the current statistics are one in three women will be abused in some manner during her lifetime. I have two younger sisters and it blows my mind that statistically, one of us will be in an abusive relationship.

Knowing this, it is vital that information on how best to support victims of violence be readily available. I have found, however, that there is a general uneasiness and confusion on how best to do this. In my previous work with victims I gained some very specific knowledge that I thought might be useful to share here. To make things easier, I will use female pronouns since women are more likely to be victims but this information applies equally to men as they can also be victims of domestic violence, too.

So, what to do if you know & love a victim of domestic violence:

First, be a listening and non-judgmental ear. You cannot help your loved one if they don’t trust you.

When or if a victim confides in you about an unhealthy relationship you must first determine the lethality of the situation to determine the best course of action.

If it is not a lethal relationship, meaning there is no current threat of severe bodily harm or death, I think it best to start with domestic violence education. I particularly like the Power & Control Wheel because it covers all the different ways abuse might be present in a relationship. (If you are dealing with a teenage abusive relationship, this version is better suited for their unique needs.) After going through the wheel with the victim I then like to show them the Equality Wheel so they have an idea of what a healthy relationship looks like. (Teen version here.)

At this point there are several choices to be made, all belonging to the victim. Remember, your job is to be a support, any pressure from you will make things worse. Your loved one may choose to stay and work on the relationship. If this is their choice, I would suggest having her attend an outpatient domestic violence support group. There she will receive more domestic violence education and connect with other women in similar situations. Many social service agencies have these kinds of support groups but you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline and they can refer you to the appropriate places if you need further help.

If your loved one chooses to leave the abusive relationship, provisions must be made for her physical and emotional support. Despite having worked at a domestic violence shelter, I think it always preferable for victims to be surrounded by family at this difficult time. If your loved one will be living with family, make sure she is enrolled in a support group. If it is not possible for her to live with family then dv shelters are a safe, supportive place to go and they offer wonderful services. Domestic violence shelters will provide food and shelter, support groups and domestic violence education as well as targeted case management to help the victim get back on her feet. You can get referrals to local domestic violence shelters through the national dv hotline linked to above.

Know that the average woman will leave an abusive relationship seven times before she leaves for good. Although this will be frustrating to you, try to be as non-judgmental as possible; the dynamics of abuse are very complicated and it is difficult to extricate one’s self from the figurative strangle-hold the abuser has over his victim. Be patient and remember that your loved one needs your support during these time more than ever. Also, please be aware that the most dangerous time for an abuse victim is after they leave the relationship. I strongly recommend having your loved one do a safety plan with a domestic violence advocate and get an Order of Protection if appropriate.

If, when you first speak to a victim, it appears that her situation is very dangerous, the first priority is to get her and any children safe. I would recommend a domestic violence shelter at this point because they are at un-disclosed locations and it will be more difficult for an abuser to find her.

Next, get the victim an Order of Protection. Many shelters will help out with this, they may even have a legal advocate on staff. If not, most superior courts do have legal advocates on staff and they can help victims navigate the complicated legal system for free. I can’t recommend using a lawyer or legal advocate enough; they understand the intricacies of the system and will be able to provide the victim with the most comprehensive Order of Protection possible. As a side note, if you feel like your safety is at risk for helping the victim, you may get an Injunction Against Harassment. While not as powerful as an order of protection, it might give you some peace of mind.

It is the goal of all domestic violence advocates to keep the victim safe and help them start a new, healthy life. Regardless of whether your loved one goes into shelter, I would utilize the services of dv advocates because they can provide your loved one with the most resources to overcome this traumatic experience and come through a survivor.

This post is getting too long but if you’re interested, I would be happy to do a follow-up post on what to do if your loved one gets caught up in the justice system or what you can do to help victims of domestic violence more generally. If you have question, please comment and I’ll do my best to answer. Also, I would love for those of you with experience in this matter to share tips that have worked or not worked so that others can learn from them. Domestic violence is a pervasive problem in our society, it affects all of us in one way or another. Only through education and commitment can we come close to ending this evil.

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Alright, it’s time

So it has been a month. A lot has changed in my life; we have moved states, I am a full time stay at home mother. I now spend my time picking up cheerios instead of sending out memos. I would be lying if I said the transition has been easy. It hasn’t. And I expect the transition will continue to be difficult.

I’m alright with this and I should say that I really love spending the extra time with my children, they are precious beyond words. Right now I am just trying to organize things in my life so that I can maximize the enjoyment that both the children and I get from staying at home. I will keep you updated on this journey.
On a side note, I recently took a survey concerning feminism and its relation to motherhood. You should go take it, it will help out a couple of grad students and provide them with further data.
Click here to participate.

Dear Readers

I have no idea if there are even any of you out there still. I promise I am here but life has gotten in the way. I am moving to Denver in two days where life as I know it will look entirely different. The biggest change is that I will be staying at home full time with my babies. I am hopeful that this difference in particular will re-motivate me to actually write a blog worth reading.

I beg your patience for a little longer while I sort through my life. Hopefully I will see you on the other side.

Egalitarians vs. Patriarchalists

I saw this quote over at Feminist Mormon Housewives and thought that I would share it here to go along with my exploration of the different ways Mormon men are helping move the Church in a more progressive direction:

“The world of men is dividing into egalitarians and patriarchalists–those
men who are trying to learn the language and customs of the newly emerging
world, and those who are determined to keep that new order from taking root. The
former group welcomes these changes, seeing that though they are painful in the
short term, over the long term they provide the only route to intimacy and
peace. But the latter group sees only loss…. The patriarchalists’ world view,
shared by women as well as men, is battling the emerging egalitarian world view,
which is also shared by people of both sexes.”

~ Naomi Wolf

So what do you think? Also, go read the discussion over at fMh, it’s fascinating.

Weekly Anti-Woman Wacko: Hopeful Edition

I got an interesting response to my post “Hope in Feminist Sisterhood” over at the Exponent from somebody calling themselves Holder86:

Mormon feminism? Why does it have to always be about women? Why can’t there
be Masculinism? Feminism is what women use to feel superior to men. There is no
need to be superior. Accept that men and women have different roles for a
reason. Mom’s and Dad’s. Dad works and Mum looks after the children. This is the
Mormon Culture. You can’t change the culture. You don’t like the culture then be
a feminist in another religion. There are many talks by Apostles about how there
is to be no feminism in the Mormon Church. Leave political beliefs to politics
and leave religion to religion. Be a feminist in politics if you want some
action but not in a religion…especially the Mormon one.

My first reaction was, “What? Are you kidding me?” I truly think that Mr. Holder86 was just trying to stir the pot and bring to boil the feminist blood. Seriously, who thinks like this anymore? Normally I don’t respond to people like Holder because, what’s the point? But then mr. mraynes made this excellent point that bears repeating here:

I guess holder86 has highlighted the uselessness of the term feminism. It’s
not useless because of its ideals, but because of the way a few have used it at
times to push a female superiority agenda. And the word itself does smack of
such a doctrine. But that is not its true aim!

Holder86, were I to extend your logic to its conclusion, I could argue that
our church does in fact practice “Masculinism”, better known as patriarchy. Men
run this church, especially its public face. I mean, it is 2009 and TWO women
share talks at General Conference alongside dozens of men. Am I the only one who
finds this ridiculous, especially when we already have an entire session devoted
to the priesthood? Couldn’t we at least hear from one woman at each of the four
general sessions?

At its core, feminism is no different than the set of teachings we call the
Gospel of Jesus Christ. Feminism, like the Gospel, espouses the fundamental
(spiritual) equality (rather than equivalence) of all souls, both male and
female. We all have the same value in the eyes of our divine Parents and
especially our Savior. All deserve love, respect, and happiness.

This is why I have called this week’s anti-woman wacko the hopeful edition because men like mr. mraynes exist and are thinking and saying things like this.

I think these two comments present an interesting illustration as to what is going on in the church today. Holder on the one hand, takes the traditional point of view and thinks that feminism is damaging and sinful, at least in a religious context. He believes that Mormon culture is just as true as Mormon doctrine and any questioning of that culture is an affront to our way of life. Unfortunately for Holder, those who hold his opinion are dying out. His understanding of marriage and the relationship between men and women is rich in its immaturity and lacks a complex world view.

Times are changing and I would venture to say that a large part of the church cannot follow the “Dad works and Mum looks after the children” paradigm, especially now in this time of economic crisis. In fact the apostles themselves have distanced themselves from this paradigm by using the convenient word, “primarily.” The previous paradigm was stifled in immaturity; women remained dependent and men were trapped in a dogmatic system. So yes, I believe culture can change; culture is no excuse for not becoming all that we can be. We are here on this earth to become like our Heavenly Parents and any step towards equality is a step towards them. The apostles and prophets are nothing, if not pragmatic and they understand that most men and women today expect equality. The fact that they have endorsed this kind of existence says to me that our leaders now expect men to be more mature and women more assertive. Though they may not explicitly use the word feminism, the apostles have increasingly turned to the rhetoric of equal partnership and shared housekeeping/childrearing responsibilities…all of which are primary tenants of feminism.

Mr. mraynes, on the other hand, recognizes the potential danger of feminism (like any ideology, it can be taken too far) but realizes that the true ideal of the word is something that is very much backed up by our doctrine and by the leaders of our church. You can find the gospel mr. mraynes espouses in our scriptures and in the words of our prophets. There are more and more men who recognize that there are inequities in our church structure and are open to ideas on how to make it better (mr. mraynes came up with a fantastic idea!). And there are more and more men like my husband who truly do want to be equal to women…Who want to be equally present in the home and to fully share in beauty and complexity of life with their partner. The good news that I see in this illustration is that it is men like my husband, feminist men, who are going to rise up and make the changes with women by their sides.

Over the next couple of weeks I would like to explore ways in which men can join the fight for true equality between the sexes. And to Holder86 and the other anti-woman wackos like him, you might want to start swimming because there is a tidal wave coming.