Posted by: joshjasper | October 14, 2009

Stand Up And Be Counted!

Today I had the opportunity to attend a training on stalking in Des Moines.  It was an excellent training (great job Cat!) that provided the audience with a wealth of information about stalking and how it relates to sexual and domestic violence.  Did you know that 3.4 milliion people in the U.S. are stalked annually?  What is often most troubling is that stalking is seen by our society as a joke.  Think of the movies (What About Mary), the songs (Every Breath You Take by the Police, and social networking sites (Facebook and MySpace) that reinforce stalking behaviors.  This is a major problem that must be addressed.

As I sat in the training today, two things struck me.  First, I was the only man in the training.  Here we are talking about an issue in which women are 3x more likely to be stalked by men, and yet we only have one man in the room participating in the conversation about how to prevent this behavior.  Something….or someone is definitely missing.

Secondly, the audience consisted of advocates from rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters throughout the state of Iowa.  This past month I attended a training in Springfield that included the same type of folks, only from Illinois organizations.  Over and over again today, and when I was in Springfield, a theme continued to emerge.  At any given opportunity, advocates were sharing the frustrations felt when attempting to advocate, educate, or counsel in their respective communities.  Their frustrations were directed toward specific institutions.  For example, one person was frustrated with the principal that would not allow her the opportunity to provide presentations in the school on violence prevention.  Another shared the stress felt from a State’s Attorney that was not prosecuting cases involving sexual violence.  Yet another advocate expressed anger felt toward the local law enforcement in that the officers did not “get it,” and were a part of the “good old boy’s network.” 

As these stories unfolded, my stress began to rise.  The frustration I felt though was not necessarily directed toward the failed systems, but rather toward the advocates.  Time and time again, stories were shared and concluded with this sense of resignation. 

We must remind ourselves that it is our duty to not only advocate for the client, but to also conduct institutional advocacy.  And it is this form of advocacy that often times is the most difficult and time consuming, but can also be the most rewarding.  As advocates of a survivor of sexual or domestic violence, you are the expert in this field. 

Use this expertise to fill yourself with the confidence needed to tactfully challenge those in power.  We owe it to our clients, and to the community we want to create, to be the advocate that stands toe to toe with the greatest of adversaries, ready to overcome any obstacle that stands in our way.  This is not easy work.  It’s not supposed to be.  Anything this important I expect to be painstakingly difficult at times.  But in the end, when equality exists, and men’s violence against women is no more, we will not remember the obstacles that we had to overcome.  We will only be satisfied by what we have accomplished for ourselves and for so many others.

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