By Staff Attorney Ian Harris
"All public elementary and secondary school students have the right to attend school in a safe, welcoming, considerate, and caring environment."
On September 13, 2010, New York State signed into law the Dignity for All Students Act (The Dignity Act) or "DASA." After nearly two years of planning to implement the law, DASA will take effect on July 1, 2012.
According to the New York State Department of Education website:
The goal of the Dignity Act is to create a safe and supportive school climate where students can learn and focus, rather than fear being discriminated against and/or verbally and/or physically harassed.
Specifically, the Dignity Act protects all public elementary and secondary school students on school property or at school functions by prohibiting discrimination by employees or students based on actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or sex.
|Image courtesy of NYSUT.org|
According to the new law, the New York State Education Department must create regulations, create procedures for yearly reports of incidents of discrimination, and provide direction (including possible model prevention policies) to assist schools in implementing the law. Local Boards of Education also have responsibilities under the new law including developing policies to create a discrimination and harassment free school environment and developing guidelines for school training programs that "raise awareness and sensitivity" of school employees and to enable employees to prevent and respond when discrimination or harassment occurs. Lastly, schools must develop guidelines for "non-discriminatory instructional and counseling methods" and for the training of one or more staff members to "handle human relations issues."
Day One, as the only organization in New York exclusively focused on intimate preventing and stopping intimate partner abuse among young people aged 24 and younger, firmly supports DASA. Students deserve to feel safe at all times, but it is especially important that students feel safe when they step into the hallways of our public schools. While a law is never enough, we must all participate in ending harassment and discrimination, DASA is a positive step forward towards the goal of making New York public schools a healthier and safer environment for all students.
If you have any further questions about DASA, click over to the New York Education Department website at http://www.p12.nysed.gov/dignityact/ where you can watch a webinar to read through the wealth of available resources.
The full text of the Dignity Act and its implementing regulations can be found at Education Law §12 and 8 NYCRR §100.2[l]).
By Margarita Guzman, Program Director
It's not often that we get do-overs for mistakes we've made. That's true for people and its especially true for institutions. Right now, the NY State legislature is deciding whether to pass a law that will give courts the opportunity to review and reduce the jail terms for survivors of domestic violence when the abuse was a "significant contributing factor" to the crime. In other words, NY State has a golden opportunity to get a do-over on terrible sentencing laws that have led to abused women being jailed for longer than they should have because the abuse against them wasn't given enough consideration. The legislation is called the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act and it could help many survivors in NY State begin the process of starting their lives after the devastating effects of domestic violence.
This law could have saved years of freedom for Kim Dadou (click here or on the image to watch Ms. Dadou as she talks about the bill on New York Now), a woman who served a 17-year sentence for killing her abuser after years of abuse at his hands, including strangulation and physical abuse that required hospitalization. Ms. Dadou is now sharing her story, "to help all of those women who remain locked up, and to change the system that failed to protect me." We hope the power of her story and the injustice to all the incarcerated survivors, mostly women, moves the legislature to take advantage of this law that will give the legal system a real opportunity to make right on its past mistakes.
In the Headlines
New York teen selected to participate in national campaign to raise awareness about dating abuse through music. Charlie Dane, a 13 year old acoustic guitarist from Oyster Bay, Long Island, was selected to be one of seven young people to participate in PAVE (Preventing Abuse and Violence through Education) The Way, a project to raise awareness of teen dating violence. Charlie contributed "Prisoner" to the project because "I felt that being stuck in a situation like this [teen dating violence] is sort of like being a prisoner and if you are a victim of relationship abuse, you need to break out of the chains that keep you from living your life freely. I was inspired by all that I read and learned about this topic."
New York State considers law reducing sentences for domestic violence victims charged with murdering their abusers. The proposed Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act would give New York State judges the option to consider lesser prison sentences or alternatives to incarceration for survivors who kill their intimate partners after suffering repeated abuse. One of the strongest advocates of the bill, Kim Dadou, shares how she spent 17 years in prison for killing her abusive partner and why she supports this bill.
Israeli researchers find childhood abuse linked to troubles in adult romantic relationships. According to researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, individuals who experience Childhood Emotional Maltreatment (CEM) are more likely to have troubled romantic relationships in adult years because it foments self-criticism, causing a deleterious effect on romantic relationships. "Over time, this tendency might be consolidated, becoming a defining part of a person's personality, and ultimately derailing relationships in general and romantic relationships in particular," explained one of the researchers.
Oregon editors say everyone must be aware of warning signs and be proactive to end dating abuse. "As parents, grandparents and community members, we should be mindful of warning signs that can signal an abusive relationship. When a victim is entangled in an abusive situation, mustering the courage to leave is difficult. To rescue abused teens from these unhealthy relationships, loved ones need to be alert and, more importantly, willing to act." Read the article that inspired this piece here.
Ohio organization holds walk-a-thon to encourage friends to intervene when they see bullying, teen dating violence. Operation Keepsake, an organization that provides healthy relationship programming in the Cleveland area, is specifically targeting friends of teen-dating violence or bullying victims with their event: Friends 4 Friends Campaign Walk-A-Thon. "If a victim can go to a friend, that is very powerful. As a friend, you can't make their choice for them, but if they confide in you, you can empower them," said a local police official in support of this initiative.
By Gayle Gatchalian, Program and Communications Associate
Uptown rush hour on the 6 train. I'm being jostled left and right and I'm trying to avoid eye contact with those around me, so my I let my eyes travel along the walls of the train car, taking in the (really clever) ads for Jameson Whisky, JetBlue, The Metropolitan College of New York and… a poster that reads "If you see something, say something." I don't think people usually have a favorite public service announcement, but I do. It's this one. It's short, pithy and to the point. But I like it for a deeper, one can say, cheesier reason. I like it because it tells me that I am part of a community. It tells me to care about those around me—that by taking care of others (i.e. saying something when I see something amiss in the train car), I take care of myself. New York City, indeed, all big cities are notorious for making people feel alone and alienated, but really, we only need to look around to realize we are in fact, the least alone in this city. We only feel alone because we shut ourselves in our iPods and avoid the gaze of the people around us (like I do) so we can pretend we don't see something wrong happening directly in front of us because that would mean interrupting our perfectly scheduled little lives to… what? To help. To be a part of something. One word to a fellow passenger who is perhaps equally stressed and harassed can be the connection that takes us from being lonely to being part of a community. And you know what? It could also be the word that spells safety.
I find this same logic behind the awesome new public awareness campaign called "Don't Mind Your Own Business." It's a public service announcement that asks all New Yorkers to be part of a community that doesn't tolerate domestic violence and speaks up when it does. It is being led by the folks at the New York City Council led by Speaker Christine Quinn, in partnership with Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence Commissioner Yolanda B. Jimenez and CEO of NYC & Company George Fertitta. Said Speaker Quinn of the campaign: "We're asking all New Yorkers to come out of the shadows and 'Don't Mind Your Own Business', if they witness or know of domestic violence happening in their community. New Yorkers must know there are services they can turn to and seek help." This campaign involves displaying advertisements on bus shelters, phone kiosks and newsstands across the five boroughs in English, Spanish, and Russian, to reach out to as many people as possible and spread the message that each and everyone can, as Council Member Gale Brewer said, "save a life."
One of the most important lessons Day One's community education workshops imparts with young people is the concept of the responsible bystander. Responsible bystanders are those who, after being educated about the warning signs of abuse, where to get help and what to look out for in a healthy relationships, don't turn their backs when a friend, a family member or a stranger needs help. Intervention doesn't have to be scary, risky or dangerous. NOT intervening, however, is scary, risky and dangerous for the person being abused.
A great line from Police Commissioner Kelly sums it up: "Silence is an accomplice of domestic violence." The message is clear—if you mind your own business, sure you don't get your hands dirty but you are helping perpetuate the violence. And if you don't mind your own business? Well New Yorker, you make New York City safer for everyone.
By Lauren Kranson, Social Work Intern
On April 20th, Day One's support group for young survivors of dating violence went to see a performance of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, of which Day One was one of the beneficiaries. For all eight of the young women (age 15-23), this was their first time seeing this play. For some it was the first time having heard of it; for others it was the first time going to see a live performance in general.
If you haven't heard of The Vagina Monologues, it is an award-winning play first performed in 1994 by playwright and activist Eve Ensler. "Based on dozens of interviews Ensler conducted with women, the play addressed women's sexuality and the social stigma surrounding rape and abuse, creating a new conversation about and with women. The Vagina Monologues ran Off-Broadway for five years in New York and then toured the United States. After every performance, Ensler found women waiting to share their own stories of survival, leading her to see that The Vagina Monologues could be more than a moving work of art on violence; she divined that the performances could be a mechanism for moving people to act to end violence." (Source: vday.org)
As we left the theater, and in the days that followed, group members spoke of the parts of the play that they liked the best, and the pieces that they found most memorable. The last monologue of the night, titled "Over it," was the one that everyone seemed to mention. This piece was not really a monologue at all--the only piece where all members of the cast performed and spoke together. The actors collectively declare that they are "over" rape, "over" violence towards women, "over" the culture of victim-blaming, exploitation and dominance, and "over" other people's silence and unresponsiveness about it. In many ways this piece was not only a declaration, but also a call to action.
Members of the group said that they found the collective voices and collective strength embodied in that moment of the play incredibly moving and powerful.
The young women in the group had originally come to Day One as individuals, each facing and processing their abuse and survival separately and in their own ways. It seems that many of the reasons that the "Over It" performance resonated so deeply with them was because it mirrored their own experiences of joining this group. It was through sharing their stories, making connections between their experiences, voicing out loud their anger, sadness, confusion and laughter, that they discovered newfound strengths, confidence and power in themselves and each other as a group. It is as a group that they start to see and imagine what they are capable of accomplishing together. It is within a group that they can find the support, space and confidence to assert loudly that they too are "over" things in their lives and in society that systemically oppress and act against them.
The young women in this group have actively begun thinking and exploring what this piece means to them and what it is calling them to do. They have been impacted by this piece—but how will it impact you? What are the things in your life or society that you are silently accepting? What are you too "over," and what are you going to do about it?
You can read the text of "Over It" here.
You can learn more about the VDay movement to end violence against women and find out ways you can participate at vday.org.
In the Headlines
New York City Council approves funding to develop an anti-sexual harassment smartphone app. $20,000 in city funding has been approved for development of a mobile-phone application to fight sexual harassment on the streets and subways. It will be developed by the creators of hollabacknyc.com, a website that asks people to use camera phones to take a photo or video of harassment and post it online. Award-winning dating violence prevention smartphone app "Circle of 6" continues to gain popularity.
Co-sponsor of Violence Against Women Act reauthorization to add provision that addresses teen dating violence. According to the office of Rhode Island senator Sheldon Whitehouse, the senator is proposing a provision in the Violence Against Women Act that would address teen dating violence. It would establish a new grant program for youth domestic violence education and support programs to train youth mentors. The Senate version of VAWApreserved the Republican-contested protections for LGBT victims. The US Attorney General lauded the Senate's passage of the bill. A columnist argues that "failure to pass the Senate version of VAWA sends a message that in 21st century America, it's OK to violently beat and abuse certain groups of people." The Washington Post urges passage of VAWA, saying bipartisan support should not "fall prey to presidential politics and the increasing stridency concerning which party best represents women's issues."
Research from the National Institute of Justice suggests that victims of stalking may also face economic instability. A study from the National Institute of Justice found that victims have been unable to take advantage of employment opportunities and to work productively due to stalking. Research also illustrates the costs to society of intimate partner stalking, estimating an amount of $343 million in 2003 for lost productivity and mental health care needed.
A columnist tells parents to be aware of dating violence, especially for girls and young women. "Parents, dating violence exists! Make positively sure you discuss this possibility with your daughter. Open and honest parent and teen discussions are very important for your daughter's safety."
Dating violence education initiatives are occurring across the country. An Oregon youth services coordinator helped high school students understand the cycle of abuse and how to better support victims. A West Virginia middle school pilots a teen dating violence education and prevention program. An Idaho organization complements their dating abuse education initiatives with contests and events. A Wisconsin county features dating violence in their community forums. A Florida survivor's college service project educates teens about dating violence. A California university partners with local police to educate teens and community about bullying and dating abuse. A Georgia county task force highlights teen dating abuse in a community seminar.