Archives for posts with tag: domestic violence

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I don’t know why I’ve held back on sharing this for so, so long.

My ex was convicted of Count 2 Unlawful Imprisonment DV (Domestic Violence), AKA kidnapping. Because he pleaded guilty to kidnapping me, they dismissed his Assault 1 charge (probably because I didn’t get seriously injured).

Justice, at least some amount, was served to him by the Seattle court system.

He received:
– Probation for 2 years, during which he is to abstain from all drug and alcohol use including marijuana and will receive random urinalysis testing
– 5 days of mandatory work crew
– He cannot receive any new criminal law violations
– He must ask permission in order to leave WA state
– He is ordered to complete a Domestic Violence Assessment and to abide by any recommendation
– He is to receive a chemical dependency evaluation and complete any recommended treatment
– He cannot possess any firearms
– There is a 2 year No Contact Order in place (he cannot be within 500 feet of me, my place of work or my home, and can be arrested on site if he is)
– He must pay fines of a little over $1000

My Victim Advocate also told me that she has almost never heard the judge speak so sternly to a defendant in all of her time at the Seattle City Attorney’s Office. She told me that the judge must have been deeply impacted by what I wrote in my victim impact statement. He said to my ex (and his whole family, who were in the court room):

“I want to be clear that if you miss a UA or come back positive I will likely jail you. You have issues that you need to deal with; I am very concerned based upon what I read in this report about you dragging a woman, covering her mouth, telling her that you are going to do unspeakable things to her and putting your hands over her neck, which is the number one indicator that you are likely to kill somebody in a domestic violence incident. I am not going to give you any leeway; for the next two years if there is any violation you will be seeing me and you can expect to go to jail.

I want this to be clear that you are to go to this Domestic Violence Assessment and you are to be honest with the assessor and you are going to do what he or she tells you to do and you are going to do what probation officer tells you to do. You are to not use alcohol or non-prescribed drugs. You are not going to violate the law. You are going to be squeaky clean for the next two years. You do NOT want to come back and see me because of what’s likely to happen then….and you need to get your LIFE IN ORDER so that you do not find your way back here.”

She also mentioned that the judge told him that his behavior was very homicidal, at which his mother (physically battered for years by her own husband, who was sitting next to her) burst into tears.

I cried when I read this. Cried because it’s hard to understand how I got to this place. Cried for his mother, who I cared for dearly. Cried because I was so happy that some sort of justice was doled out to this man that I used to love so much. Cried because I was afraid he might come after me due to being so mad that he wasn’t going to be allowed to party or travel whenever he wanted. Cried from exhaustion.

I’m still healing every day and I just want to tell everyone out there who’s dealing with DV that things do get better. But it’s a freakin’ slow process. And life sucks sometimes in the aftermath of this type of betrayal.

Still, I know how incredibly lucky I am to have escaped before we got married, had kids, or he did real physical harm to me or someone else in my life.

Just remember, friends, things aren’t always what they appear to be on the outside. If you think your friend might be in an abusive relationship, find a way to gently talk to them about it. You could save a life.

If I can help prevent even one person from going through what I’ve dealt with over the last year, it will all be worth it. I continue to stay as strong as I can, despite health and emotional issues resulting from this misery. I hope you all keep on staying strong too. You are worth it – and you deserve to be truly, unconditionally loved.

While doing internet research yesterday, I found my way to the website of Washington state nonprofit Domestic Abuse Women’s Network (DAWN). Curious, I clicked on the link “Is my relationship abusive?” The page presented the following questions:

Do you feel…

  • Confused about your relationship?
  • Like you are going crazy?
  • That you are “walking on eggshells”?
  • It is hard for you to spend time with family or friends?
  • As if you can’t do anything right?
  • That your partner decides when and where you have sex?
  • Like you are in a relationship with two completely different people?
  • That you need to justify everything you do?
  • Drained?

Does your partner…

  • Call you names or put you down?
  • Want to know what you’re doing and who you’re with all the time?
  • Act extremely jealous?
  • Find excuses to keep you from getting enough sleep?
  • Push, shove, or grab you?
  • Keep you from leaving when you want to leave?
  • Force you to do things sexually you don’t feel comfortable doing?
  • Promise to change (get counseling, go to AA, etc.)?

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, when considering my last serious relationship. I didn’t even need to think twice before I wholeheartedly agreed with every single statement on the page, except for one (which was more of a half-truth).

Just as I have been many times since I was attacked by my ex-boyfriend (and subsequently came to the devastating realization that I was a victim of domestic violence, emotional abuse, and manipulation to the highest degree), I am dumbfounded by how stereotypical my DV experience was.

And as always, I wonder why I didn’t realize what was going on sooner. But that’s all part of being with an abusive person – it’s a constant battle between listening to your own logic and what you know is right in your heart of hearts, and listening the things that your partner tells you. The reality presented to me by my ex was one in which I was the most selfish, foolish, shameful, and undeserving person. He was “trying so hard to forgive me” for all of my many “sins,” but he just didn’t know if he could be strong enough to do so. I’ve always struggled with my self-confidence and self-worth, so it was easy to believe these things coming from the person who I was deeply in love with (not to mention living with).

Would I have left earlier if I had known what I know now? There’s no way to know for sure, but I’d like to think that the answer is yes. That’s why I challenge every person reading this post to consider their relationship with their partner. If you have any question in your mind whether it is abusive, please do yourself the incredible, possibly lifesaving, favor of learning more about what domestic abuse looks like.

If you are pondering whether or not you are involved in an abusive relationship, I suggest that you read the book “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft. This book is an incredible investigation of the mind of abusive and controlling men (please note: people who are in relationships with abusive women, as well as folks who are in same-sex relationships, can also gain a lot of valuable information from the book, but it is written primarily for cisgender women who are in abusive romantic relationships with cisgender men).

The incredibly strong and brave women that I met at my first DV support group meeting suggested this book to me. It changed my perspective on everything. It made me realize that I wasn’t crazy – that the horrible feelings of self-doubt, self-loathing, and isolation – along with the attachment I was feeling towards my abuser – were all normal things. More than normal in fact – they were the standard.

The more I read about domestic violence and abusive partners, the clearer the pattern becomes. I only wish that I could have recognized it earlier. But maybe, just maybe, sharing my story will help someone else do just that.

If you have any question in your mind about whether or not you are being controlled or abused – or you answered “yes” to any of the questions listed above – please take a harder look at your relationship. Read Bancroft’s book. If you can’t read it at home for fear of your partner, read it at the library or at work. Seek help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) to get your questions answered by a real human being who understands what you are going through.

Whatever you choose to do, remember first and foremost that you are worthy of true, unconditional love and you do not deserve to be abused (physically, mentally, emotionally, sexual, or in any other way) – no matter what your partner would have you believe.

For immediate assistance, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline:
1-800-799-SAFE
TTY: 1-800-787-3224

DaniKat001

Yesterday was the second pretrial hearing of my ex (hereafter to be known as X). The second time that he got up in front of a judge and had his lawyer ask for a “continuance” (ie, more time) to come to an agreement on his case.

X has been charged with Assault and Unlawful Imprisonment. Or, domestic violence and kidnapping. Whatever you want to call it. The prosecutor in the case asked for him to be given 34 days in jail, fines totaling $1143.00, a criminal no contact order protecting me for two calendar years, a mandatory chemical dependency evaluation (and treatment if necessary) and the completion of domestic violence counseling.

In all likelihood, he will just end up paying the fines. It’s not that I want him to go to jail. No, that seems too dangerous of an outcome in a way. X would probably stew in his cell, reciting a constant mantra of that crazy bitch, that crazy fucking bitch. Perhaps he would come out even angrier at the world, at women, and at me.

No, it’s not jail time that I wish for him. It’s clarity of mind. It’s change of attitude and character – so that he won’t go on to hurt another woman. Another partner that he makes his whole world and swears his never-ending devotion to, that he tells is the most wonderful person he has ever met, that he is so proud of and wants to spend his life with…until she doesn’t live up to his perfect ideal of a subservient housewife who automatically knows how to make all of his favorite dishes perfectly. Who was practically a virgin until she met him, but is know well-schooled in how to please his needs and fit his every fantasy. Who is willing to put her own desires, beliefs, convictions – and even her own friends and family – aside for his.

I was never going to be that girl. And I think that the more that X got to know me, the angrier I made him. I wasn’t docile enough, innocent enough, selfless enough…and I had strong beliefs. Perhaps this was the worst thing of all. He once told me that I could NEVER teach our children about feminism.

Feminism, he said, was something he just did not like. When asked if he knew what it was, he became more volatile. X clearly did not have the slightest clue. But any time it became obvious to both of us that I was better educated than him, or that I was more knowledgeable about a certain subject, he would erupt into a state of rage and tell me how truly awful I was for “talking back” to him or for “making him look bad” in front of so-and-so.

There is so much that I want to say. And I don’t know that it is 100% safe for me to say it. But I am sure as hell that I need to say it – or this will just be one more story of domestic violence that goes unheard. One more sad tale of control and abuse that gets swept under the rug and forgotten – by everyone except the person who bears the scars, that is.

I need to repeat to myself: I am safe. I am loved. I will be okay. There is a good and happy future waiting. I do not need to feel this pain forever. I will not spend my life in fear of men. I will not let one angry, hurt man destroy my soul. I will not be controlled and abused. I will protect, support, and love myself. I will move on. I will be strong. I will find new and deeper strength each day.

Farmworkers Harvest First Spring Crops In Southern California

 

Originally posted in Everyday Feminism. Photo credit: NBC Latino.

Ever wonder who harvested the berries in your smoothie? Or who took the effort to pick that big, juicy apple that you’re about to bite into?

Probably not.

And chances are, it was a farmworker. There are currently approximately one million farmworkers employed across the United States.

So how come we never hear about them? And who are these farmworkers exactly?

Most are immigrants working at low-paying agricultural jobs on big farms that sell produce to our supermarkets and restaurant chains: apples, tomatoes, cherries, avocadoes, potatoes, strawberries, pears – you name it.

They harvest the food that we eat. And yet they are one of the most hidden and underrepresented population subgroups in the nation.

The public knows very little about the conditions under which farmworkers work or the injustices that they face. But some of us know – and it’s not easy to forget once you learn the truth.

Farmworker advocates believe that we should all be aware of how our food is getting to us – and who is being hurt along the way.

Farmworkers Are Being Mistreated in America

Many farmworkers in America have their basic human rights violated every day.

Whether due to unsafe housing provided for them while they harvest, unethically low pay, unsanitary and hazardous work conditions, illegal child labor, rampant abuse of power, the pervasiveness of sexual assault, or a slew of other alarming problems, there is no doubt that farmworkers do not receive the same treatment and legal standing as most American workers.

This fact from the Bureau of Labor Statistics takes my breath away: Every day, at least one farm worker dies on the job, and hundreds more are injured.

The lack of basic knowledge about farmworker conditions in our country may be one of the reasons why these injustices are allowed to continue.

So just how bad are things? Let’s take a look at some of the issues that farmworkers face on a daily basis.

Farmworker Living Conditions Often Lead to Sickness

Some farmworkers are able to live in shared housing with other families offsite of their farms. But many others have to live where they work – on the farms themselves.

The circumstances in farm labor camps vary by location across the nation. Some camps are merely crowded. Others suffer from moldy walls and dilapidated or deteriorating construction.

In some cases, conditions are far inferior.

Reports show multiple families live cramped next to one another with little privacy even for bathing or using the toilet, vermin and cockroach infestations, employer surveillance and intimidation, toxic residue in dwellings, and contaminated drinking water.

These living conditions not only make maintaining a clean and secure lifestyle difficult; they can also cause serious health problems for the workers who experience them.

Overcrowded living quarters contribute to the rapid spread of disease, as does the lack of adequate sewage or garbage removal.

Pesticides carried in on the clothes of workers, sprayed by the landlords for pest control purposes or blown in on the wind from fields and orchards surrounding farmworker housing have been shown to cause serious neurological complications in workers, and especially in their children.

It’s common for adult farm workers to suffer from tuberculosis, skin infections, respiratory illnesses, or intestinal parasites as well. Because of the lack of sanitation and the extremely crowded living situations in their housing, these illnesses are passed from one family to the next in rapid succession.

Migrant farmworkers travel long distances to make money working in the harvest, and living in a farm-provided labor camp will boost their meager earnings.

And despite their hard work, they rarely make enough to move out of labor camps into private apartments with better accommodations.

And while farmworkers earn money during harvest, the seasonal nature of their employment demands that they save every dime for the months they will be without work.

They are financially bound to living in substandard conditions and dealing with the dangerous practices of their employers.

Farm Work Affects Entire Families

Despite the stereotype, farmworkers are not all able-bodied adult men. They are grandparents, women, infants, and growing children as well.

Entire families who come to farms in hopes of finding employment often work and suffer together under miserable conditions.

Farmworker children may suffer the most from the poor conditions in many farmworker camps.

Because of the pesticides that their mothers ingest day in and day out in the fields, many babies are born with mental and physical disabilities.

And if not encountered in utero, kids growing up in camps are still subjected to these same toxins as their brains and bodies develop during childhood.

Some children, whose parents’ farms do not provide housing, are forced to sleep in the beds of trucks or on hard dirt floors under tarps for entire harvests seasons.

Federal child labor laws forbid farm owners from employing children under 12 years of age, and yet there are constantly reports of underage kids in the fields on some of America’s top agriculture farms.

Such backbreaking work is fundamentally dangerous for growing children. Instead of attending school or being able to socialize with friends, farmworker kids often work alongside their parents, spending long hours harvesting in the blistering heat, operating heavy machinery and being exposed to pesticides.

Domestic Violence, Sexual Abuse, and LGBTQIA+ Discrimination Are Prevalent Among Farmworkers

Tragically, farmworker women are more than likely to be victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence. Most live and work in a patriarchal system with traditional gender roles and an entrenched social acceptance of sexual violence.

A 2010 survey of 150 farmworker women in the California Central Valley reported that 80% of the women had been sexually harassed at work.

It is not uncommon for female farm employees to be preyed upon by their supervisors, who spend long days in the fields with them and who have the power to order them into isolating situations on a whim.

Advocates also report that LGBTQIA+ farmworkers are subjected to extreme amounts of workplace violence and discrimination – not only from their peers, but also from the management in some cases.

Most frightening of all, says Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regional attorney William Tamayo, is the staggering amount of victims who do not even come forward in the first place.

Fear of Retribution

We know that many farmworkers suffer abuse by their employers, supervisors, and landlords who take advantage of farmworkers’ poverty, cultural structures, gender roles, housing situations, immigration status, language deficiencies, or fear of law enforcement to wield dominance over them.

But why don’t they speak out against the abuse?

Most commonly, because they are afraid of retribution from their bosses.

Government officials and police are more likely to investigate work camps and agricultural employers if they receive an official complaint.

However, because many workers fear that speaking out about problems at work will result in their eviction, deportation, or firing, most farmworkers keep silent.

Maricruz Ladino, a farmworker who was bullied and raped by her supervisor in 2006, told NPR why she did not come forward for seven months after her attack:  “I saw my choices,” she said.“I lose my job, I can’t feed my family.”

After finally speaking up, Ladino was expeditiously fired by the management at her farm. Even after winning the civil suit she eventually filed against them (with the help of a legal assistance organization), her former employers were never punished nor identified, and her rapist faced no criminal charges.

Immigration status is a huge player in the equation as well.

With over 50-60% of farmworkers being undocumented, sometimes all it takes is a threat to call immigration enforcement officials to put workers at an egregious power imbalance with their employers or landlords.

These are harsh realities.

Although both state and federal laws do exist to protect workers whose contracts have been violated, who are being intimidated, or who are subject to dangerous working or living conditions, there are many barriers that prevent farmworkers from discovering their rights in the first place.

Moreover, the existence of these laws does little to stop them from being broken by many agricultural employers.

The Language Divide

To make matters even more difficult, the majority of farmworkers also have to contend with a language barrier.

Most do not speak English as their first language. Some do not even speak Spanish as their primary language, but are instead fluent in any number of indigenous languages common in Mexico or other nations in Central and South America.

To be specific, 81% of farmworkers speak Spanish, 18% speak English, and 2% speak other languages, including Tagalog, Creole, and Thai. A stunning 60% of farmworkers not born in the United States cannot speak or read English at all. And only 35% are able to speak a minimal amount of English.

This lack of basic language ability makes it unquestionably hard for farmworkers to get legal help when they face poor treatment from employers. It makes receiving the necessary medical care for injury or illness near impossible. And it isolates victims of domestic violence and sexual assault from community services that can help.

Purchasing for Change

Now that we know a bit more about the injustices in farmworker employment, is there any way that we as consumers can change the market by purchasing strategically?

Animal advocates have fought to set high standards for what food can be labeled as humanely raised. And there are strict rules for which food products can be called certified organic.

The only equivalent for worker treatment in America is the fair trade movement.

Organizations such as Fair Trade USA and the Fair Trade Federation have created standards for companies to qualify as fair trade. Products that earn the organizations’ logos must come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated. Income from sales of Fair Trade USA products go to teaching disadvantaged communities how to use their free market advantage.

Check out the Fair Trade USA website for a list of certified fair trade products and partners and to learn more.

However, unlike the organic label, there is not a huge call for fair trade products from the general populace, in part because farmworkers are such an underrepresented population.

Awareness must increase for Americans to realize that purchasing fair trade matters – and why it does.

Farmworkers Need a Voice

American farmworkers are undoubtedly a marginalized population who lack proper legal and social representation.

National organizations like the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs, the National Center for Farmworker Health, Farmworker Justice, and the National Employment Law Project advocate to get farmworkers the representation that they need.

By providing well-trained legal staff that speaks Spanish and other languages, they bridge the looming linguistic divide in order to represent workers in legal cases against abusive employers.

By presenting opportunities for farmworkers to get basic healthcare needs met, they mitigate the dangerous conditions in which these workers live and toil.

Not only this, but farmworker advocacy groups offer farmworker education, as well as information about and access to job training and safety programs for workers.

Overcoming the lack of awareness among the actual farmworker community about these resources is a huge struggle. Most farmworkers don’t have access to the Internet. Most don’t have a great deal of education, and many haven’t even graduated from high school. In fact, studies conducted by the National Agricultural Workers Survey indicate that the average completed educational level for farmworkers is seventh grade.

Without ways to access information about programs and organizations that can help, farmworkers remain stuck.

***

Take a moment to reflect on how you might react to this article if it were your own family getting up at five o’clock in the morning to pick berries for twelve hours at a substandard wage, to suffer from supervisor intimidation and manipulation, to live in crumbling homes with no privacy, and to fear for their safety every day at work.

The situation won’t get better if no one knows about the injustices that farmworkers suffer.

Encourage your friends to think about where their food comes from. Hopefully in doing so, they will be inspired to help us bring farmworker exploitation out of the darkness.