Thursday, February 28, 2008

Should you rape a woman?

Cross posted from The Big Picture because I wrote it so I can do that.

The Australian Football League is making an interactive DVD as part of their efforts to improve players' respect for women. Respect and responsibility program co-ordinator Melanie Heenan says it's purpose is to "prompt confident decision-making in situations that can be quite complex".

We are always thrilled when a professional athletics organization takes a step to deal with violence against women. However, we are disappointed that the type of training being implemented by the AFL is actually necessary. Melinda Tankard Reist says it best:

We have so failed in the very basics of civilised human interaction that the Australian Football League has been forced to hire a swag of actors and a film crew to make an interactive DVD to help players understand that perhaps it's not a good idea to pretend to be your best mate so you can have sex with his girlfriend.

As sarcastic is it sounds, Reist's chosen scenario is drawn from an actual draft question from the training DVD's script. Among the drafts released to the public are the complicated moral dilemmas of whether or not to trick a woman into having sex with you, take advantage of a woman who is very intoxicated, or watch people have sex without their permission. In respect to these questions, blogger Melissa McEwan comments,

That these are considered complex ethical questions is just completely insane to me. It's like being asked: "You see your friend Todd walking down the street toward you. Do you: (a) say hello or (b) hit him in the head with a shovel?"

In her column, Ms. Reist goes on to say that it does not seem that the DVD will address the seriousness of sexual assault and that it is playing on negative stereotypes of women. She also believes that the actions of the AFL are a reflection of a larger culture of contempt for women as exemplified by an Australian made t-shirt that reads "It's not rape, it's surprise sex."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


When submitting please include contact information on your bio page. We forgot to include space for that and I won't get a chance to fix it until I get home this evening.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What does GBD do for participating artists?

We are offering the artists who participate on our site the chance to gain exposure and experience and to help make the world a better place simply by doing what they love. Apart from space on our website, artists whose images are used in our marketing materials will be credited, and artists will also have the chance to participate in our live events. Artists who build a good reputation through successful delivery of artwork to clients will potentially be recommended for commission work. We will also be periodically highlighting a participating artist on our Featured Artist page.

That being said, participation in Giving by Design is not a substitute for representation. We want to cater to self-represented artists and offer a cost-effective means for launching their career. We are able to keep our fees low because we do not spend money promoting or advocating for individual artists outside the scope of promoting or advocating for the organization.

We pride ourselves on having a high level of transparency and ethics in our business practices. All of our partner organizations have copies of our application packets and are constantly updated concerning any changes in our application or contract policies as well as any changes in our business practices. Participating artists can keep up with these updates by routinely checking our blog.

We'd love to hear any suggestions or comments you might have.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Application Packet!

This will be available on our website as well starting tomorrow. If you have any questions feel free to e-mail us at

The Impact of Low Literacy

Literacy Services of Indian River County has an informative page of statistics showing the impact of low -level literacy in adults. While I encourage you to check out the full page , I thought I would post some of the most glaring points.

-43% of adults at the lowest level of literacy proficiency live in poverty.

-Among adults with strong literacy skills, only 4% live in poverty.

-A study on literacy (included in the Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Vol. 2 edited by Susan Neuman and David Dickinson) shows that while in middle income neighborhoods the ratio of books per child is 13 to 1, in low-income neighborhoods, the ratio is 1 age-appropriate book for every 300 children.

-70% of mothers on welfare have reading skills in the lowest two proficiency levels
(this is particularly alarming considering that a mother's literacy level is one of the
most significant predictors of a child's future literacy ability).

-U.S. Department of Education figures show that “75% of prison inmates and 85% of juveniles in correctional facilities are functionally illiterate” (this compares to 47% of all adults in the U.S. who are functionally illiterate).

Application Packet

We got the application packet back from the attorney's office and we need to make a few minor corrections, but we should finally have it posted tonight or tomorrow.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Growing Advocacy for Muslim Women

Cross-posted from The Big Picture because I wrote it so I can do that.

Via The New York Times.
Domestic violence in Muslim culture in the Unites States has been a difficult problem to address due to a lack of understanding of the culture on the part of outsiders or a hesitancy to interfere in what is considered traditional religious gender roles. Thankfully, organizations founded by Muslim American women are fostering a movement to publicly define domestic violence as an unacceptable cultural practice. While domestic violence occurs in the Muslim American community at the same rate as most other groups, approaching the topic has been difficult because it is seen by many involved in the faith as an attack.

“The Muslim community is under a lot of scrutiny, so they are reluctant to look within to face their problems because it will substantiate the arguments demonizing them,” said Rafia Zakaria, a political science graduate student at Indiana University who is starting a legal defense fund for Muslim women. “It puts Muslim women in a difficult position because if they acknowledge their rights, they are seen as being in some kind of collusion with all those who are attacking Muslim men. So the question is how to speak out without adding to the stereotype that Muslim men are barbaric, oppressive, terrible people.”

Ms. Zakaria and other women like her believe that the best way to refute Muslim stereotypes is to show the public that Muslim women are addressing the problem of domestic violence. And while many organizers have been expelled from mosques and other Muslim activities for attempting to discuss the problem of domestic violence, recent attempts to find allies within the church are gaining ground.

Apart from self-empowerment and fighting stereotypes, there are other important reasons for Muslim women to be pro-active in tackling domestic violence.

First, many Muslim women who have sought help for domestic violence report that cultural misunderstandings often hinder their recovery. Take this story from the New York Times of a young Yemeni-American woman who went to a local shelter after suffering for seven years at the hands of her husband.

The shelter brought in a hairdresser, whose services she accepted without any misgivings. But once her hair was styled, administrators urged her to throw off her veil, saying it symbolized the male oppression native to Islam that she wanted to escape.

While these women in all likelihood had good intentions, they failed to recognize that this young woman was fleeing her abusive husband and not her religion. Someone with an understanding of Muslim culture and religion would have been able to highlight the ways in which this young woman could find support and strength within her beliefs rather than fostering the harmful misconception that leaving an abusive relationship means giving up or betraying Islam.

Another reason that Muslim American women must get involved in the movement is that those Muslim women who are sheltered and who may not speak English run a higher risk of being victimized due to the fact that accurate information concerning domestic violence and a woman's legal rights is hard to come by in that context. Consider the story of this same Yemeni-American woman's first efforts to escape her husband by reaching out to her family.

The clerics offered marriage counseling, but only if the husband came too, a condition she knew doomed the idea. Her sister suggested she lose weight and be more obedient. Her father encouraged obedience, too, while her husband hit her through three pregnancies. After she filed for divorce, she said, her father hauled her home and hit her too, for shaming him.

Hamdard Center for Health and Human Services in Chicago is an advocacy group for Muslim American women and they have developed several interesting solutions to this problem. Hamdard briefs area grocery store owners and hairdressers that cater to Muslims, which has produced numerous referrals. It also organizes mosque seminars about breast cancer, then inserts a small segment about domestic violence.

It is important to reiterate that the Koran does not condone domestic violence. There is one Koran verse that is cited by some as support for abusive behavior, but mainstream clerics such as Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, the outreach director for Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia are currently lobbying to make the official interpretation of this verse as saying that women must be obedient to God.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

USA Today Highlights Importance of the Innocence Project

USA Today published a remarkably comprehensive article this week surrounding the efforts of the Innocence Project and its affiliates to free wrongfully convicted prisoners. The article begins by focusing on Charles Chatman's adjustment to freedom. Chatman was recently exonerated by DNA testing after serving 27 years in the Texas prison system for a crime he did not commit.

Each of the six rooms in his new apartment, including the bathroom, is larger than any of his previous cells. The gleaming entertainment system and sleek laptop from family, friends and attorneys might as well be hollow props on a movie set, because Chatman, 47, has little idea how to operate them — testimony to more than a generation lost behind bars.

It is the increasing instances of stories like Chatman's that, according to USA Today, is sparking a new urgency across the country to secure the release of wrongfully convicted individuals. The article cites many examples of this new cooperation with the Innocence Project, but I found this one to be the most striking.

•In what may be the most aggressive move by a local prosecutor, Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins has turned over more than 400 files to law students working for the Innocence Project of Texas. The students are reviewing decisions by previous administrations to reject requests for DNA testing.

Watkins, Dallas County's first African-American district attorney, says opening the files may have been his easiest decision since being sworn in last year, even in a state where politicians have a reputation for supporting aggressive law-and-order policies.

"The reason I'm here is a result of what happened in the past," Watkins says. He cites a tradition of aggressive prosecution in Dallas and routine denials of prisoners' requests for post-conviction reviews, which he says shrouded past errors. Those errors have emerged, Watkins says, largely because the local forensics laboratory preserved the biological evidence at issue in many of the recent challenges by prisoners.

For many places, a review of convictions such as that in Dallas County is not possible because physical evidence has not been preserved. The lack of uniform preservation standards is a big concern among advocates for post-conviction challenges, says Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project.

But for Watkins, the available evidence offered "an opportunity to restore the credibility of this office."

If you have the chance, please go check out the entire article . There is so much to this complex problem and the writer does a very good job of describing the impact wrongful imprisonment has on a person and the numerous barriers to post-conviction reviews.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Monday, February 18, 2008

Immigration and VAWA

Recently, I've been blogging for Women's Resource Center concerning how many survivors of domestic violence are being revictimized , by the Department of Homeland Security's recent efforts to reform immigration.

After doing two entries concerning different policy decisions, it occurred to me that combining the posts would also make for an appropriate blog entry about what I think is an extremely troubling trend.

Immigration has been a hot-button issue in the US for many years, and has prompted sweeping reforms under the current administration. In the wake of these reforms, immigrant victims of domestic violence have been put at risk. Consider the story of Ana Bertha Arellano

Arellano married a U.S. citizen and had two children with him. In 1997, her husband encouraged her to enter the United States illegally and claimed that they would file to adjust her status once they were settled. Instead, her husband used Arellano's undocumented status to keep her under his control and subject to his abuse.

For years, Arellano believed she had no other option but to endure the abuse and hope that someday her husband would help her file for permanent residency. Fortunately, in 2001, Arellano met an attorney who informed her of the provision in the Violence Against Women Act that allows undocumented immigrants who are married to abusive U.S. citizens to apply for a temporary visa and permanent resident status without the sponsorship of their spouses. Through this provision, Arellano was able to obtain a temporary Violence Against Women Act visa and was optimistic that she would eventually be able to obtain a green card.

Arellano owns a restaurant and works as a janitor at night in order have a job that pays for health insurance. She does not receive public assistance of any kind and she has no criminal record. She did everything right, but her green card application has been put on hold indefinitely and her temporary visa is in danger of being revoked. This stall is due to a decision by the Department of Homeland Security to re-examine it's policy of allowing immigrant spouses to remain here when their abusive U.S. citizen or permanent-resident spouses refuse to help them obtain legal status. Without that protection, Arellano, and many other women like her, could end up deported by the same U.S. officials who agreed to shelter her from abuse. Arellano is panicked that she will be forced to uproot her family or leave her children with her abusive spouse. "I don't want anything else but a chance to have some stability for my family," she says.

Over 30,000 women have been granted temporary Violence Against Women Act visas since 1994. Many of these women are now uncertain if they still have a path to citizenship. In addition, the threat of deportation is assuredly keeping even more women from reporting the abuse they are experiencing. One of the best ways to stop family violence is to expose it, but this decision by the Department of Homeland Security may deter women from reporting crimes against them and allow abusers to continue to use their spouse's undocumented status as a tool of oppression without fear of any consequence.

These immigration reforms are not just threatening undocumented victims of domestic violence. Some of these new regulations will have far reaching consequences for undocumented immigrants, documented immigrants, and native born citizens alike. In an effort to standardize the information provided on driver's licenses throughout the nation, Homeland Security advocated the regulations found in the Real ID Act which mandate minimum standards for government issued ID cards and provides for a national database of ID holders rather than the current disconnected system of statewide databases. Initially, proponents of the Real ID Act were unable to pass it on its own, and so they attached it as a rider to a military spending bill and the Act passed without debate. Opponents of the Real ID Act worry about how it will affect victims of domestic violence and stalking.

Every year, about 1,000 domestic violence victims legally change their Social Security numbers in an attempt to elude people who may pose threats, and many more change their legal names, according to figures compiled by advocacy groups.

But hiding from stalkers may become more difficult under a federal law called the Real ID Act that's scheduled to take effect on May 11.

Anna Broach wrote a comprehensive piece on the shortfalls of the Real ID Act with respect to domestic violence on NewsBlog last week as part one of a four part series. While she acknowledges that the Real ID Act does provide an "alternate address" (a fake address that will forward to a real address) that can be used for victims of domestic violence, she also points out that this protection is only available by court order. Broach states that the principal concern for most advocacy groups is the mandated interlinking of state DMV databases because it renders this court ordered "alternate address" ineffective.

The final rule says that both an individual's "full legal name" and "true address" must be stored in the DMV database, regardless of what's displayed on the card and encoded on its bar code. It also requires that motor vehicle departments scan and store "source documents," such as birth certificates, to verify a driver's license applicant's identity.

The Department of Homeland Security refuses to comment on how they will provide protection to those trying to hide from stalkers, saying only that the exchange of information between the states will be "limited." Cindy Southworth, technology project director for the National Network to End Domestic Violence pointed out the problems that come along with giving that much access to DMV employees.

Given that there are less than six degrees of separation between most abusers and a friend or relative who works for the DMV, we are concerned about victims' location information housed in state databases that could be searched nationally.... Prior to national search ability, a victim could move to a different state and increase her safety and privacy, but national search functionality could place countless victims at risk.

Without a comprehensive plan to protect victims of stalking and domestic violence, this national database could cripple their hope for a new life free from fear. The current deadline for implementation of the Real ID Act is May 11, 2008. However, it may be postponed again because of a lack of support from the States. To show your support for survivors, contact your representative and tell them to speak out against the Real ID Act until these changes are made.

For more information on how immigration reforms are affecting victims of domestic violence check out XicanoPwr and Legal Momentum's Immigrant Women Program.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Application packet and new blogging direction

Just so everyone knows, we haven't forgotten about the application packet. It's at the attorney's office and it's just taking a little longer than we thought for them to get back to us so we can be sure everything is nice and legal.

Also, we at Giving by Design have a policy of not partnering with any organization in which we would not want to personally participate. Therefore, as of tomorrow we will start writing blog entries that are relevant to the causes we support as well as the activities of Giving by Design. Feel free to comment with or e-mail any topic ideas.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Quick Hit: Good News

We've begun a self-titled Facebook group in order to heighten our outreach to student artists.

In addition, we expect to have our complete application packet together by the end of the week!