July 2014 Newsletter
Battered Women's Justice Project Conference 2014

     In June the DVC sent a multi-disciplinary team (staff from law enforcement, prosecution, advocacy, and DVC) to a national conference in New Orleans sponsored by the Battered Women's Justice Project, entitled "Identifying and Solving CCR Challenges: Research, Data Analysis, and New Approaches."  It was fabulous!  In addition to networking with national agencies that can provide support and direction in work strategies, we learned a lot about how other communities structure specific aspects of their response to domestic violence and sexual assault.  Several breakout sessions focused on specific tools/instruments to assess immediate safety of victims that come in contact with victim service or criminal justice agencies.  

     Another common theme of breakout sessions was how to embark on a Community Safety Assessment, which the DVC launched here in Omaha last year.  It was nice to see that we are ahead of the curve with having started this best-practice approach, and were excited to see it featured as one of the primary methods to make progress in responding to domestic violence.   The individuals that attended this conference participate on a leadership team for Douglas County's Community Safety Assessment and will be bringing lessons learned back to the larger Community Response Team (CRT).

On The Wire
     The Domestic Violence Council regularly posts articles on our Facebook page regarding intimate partner violence, sexual assault and several other topics. There were a few opinions that stood out in the past few weeks we would like to share with you.
   TIME magazine's piece by John Kelly 'I'm a Survivor of Rape and Intimate Partner Violence- And I'm a Man'  speaks to how it is important to remember that both sexual assault and intimate partner violence are not one gender issues. It is a problem than can affect anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Mr. Kelly wrote, "The gender norms that allow men to rape at such staggering rates also create ideals of masculinity that silence male survivors." Quite often we forget about the numerous men who experience the same fear and pain that female survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. It is important to be there to hear and support all survivor voices. 


   The New York Time's featured a Sunday Review Opinion by Sara Shoener titled "Two Parent Households Can Be Lethal". Ms. Shoener writes about how the pressures of maintaining a two parent household can be detrimental to women in abusive relationships. Many are pressured by society to stay with their abuser to keep two parents in the house, to avoid the stigma of single motherhood and try not to become another statistic. "The truly alarming part, however, is the extent to which the institutions that are intended to assist domestic violence survivors- protection order courts, mental health services, public benefits programs and child custody systems- reinforce this stigma with both official policies and ingrained prejudices", Ms. Shoener wrote. While ideally a child should have two parents, the safety of the mother and children should be viewed as more important than a societal expectation of what a family should be.
Justice For Our Neighbors:
Success Story

     Just recently, Violeta, a former client, stopped in Justice For Our Neighbors-Nebraska (JFON-NE) to drop off her business card in case we needed her services. But her real purpose in stopping in was to tell us how we had helped her find a new life.


     In 2007 Violeta was an undocumented immigrant from Nicaragua who had been a victim of severe physical and emotional violence for many years from her husband, a U.S. citizen. She never left the house, believing every word he said about deporting her and separating her from her two small daughters forever.  Then one day Violeta learned that her husband had sexually abused their four-year old daughter.  Torn between the wrath of her husband and the safety of her daughter, Violeta called her closest friend for help. The friend told her to call JFON-NE because we help immigrants and we speak Spanish.


     Despite her fears, Violeta made the call. Our domestic violence staff attorney assured her that she and her daughter had protection under U.S. law.  The attorney told Violeta to call the WCA, who in turn assisted her in contacting the Domestic Abuse Shelter immediately so they could help her safely leave the house that day.  A police report was also made regarding the child sexual abuse.  Violeta and the girls were gone from the house when the father returned from work, and the police arrested him that night.  Child Protective Services became involved to assist with the special needs of the daughter.


     The following week, the shelter staff helped Violeta make an appointment and they drove her to Justice For Our Neighbors' office for a consultation.  Carefully the attorney walked Violeta through each step, speaking in Spanish and helping her understand the law and the forms.  Because of the abuse and the sexual assault, Violeta was eligible for a VAWA self-petition.  She was terrified of something going wrong and being deported, but the attorney explained that her husband had committed a crime in this country, and that she had a right to protection from further abuse. The attorney explained that because this was a self-petition, it did not require his participation in the process, so she did not have to testify against her husband.  The attorney helped her file for a Protection Order against her husband.  And because she was now at the shelter with no job and no income, JFON represented her for free. 


     Over the next months the attorney coached her on the papers to gather and made calls for the papers Violeta did not have. Because of her fears of her husband's reaction, the attorney requested that Violeta's papers be mailed to our JFON office, rather than her home address.  Violeta received deferred action in 2008, along with a work permit which allowed her to work legally and support her children.  In 2009 she was granted lawful permanent status, which allows her to visit her family in Nicaragua and return to the U.S. without concern.  This October she is eligible to apply for citizenship.

     Violeta told us the help she received through JFON-NE changed her life forever.  "When you are in this country and are abused every day, you don't know how much it means to find free help like this," she told us through her tears, "If it wasn't for JFON's help, I would never have become a legal resident and started a business of my own."  Today Violeta calls her teenage daughters her "business partners," to give them confidence to believe in themselves and what they can accomplish.  No doubt, Violeta is their most influential role model.
Letter from the 
Executive Director
     Reading the story from JFON-NE reminds us how challenging life can be for people like Violeta who have to go into hiding to flee violent and abusive relationships, and how lucky we are in Omaha and Douglas County that many agencies coordinate their efforts on behalf of one woman and her children.  Life can also be challenging for many of you who help the Violetas of the world, too.  Summer is a great time to take a break, count our blessings, and renew ourselves so we can continue our commitment to safety for survivors AND accountability for offenders.


Happy summer everyone!  Please take care of yourselves, 

Tara L. Muir, JD
Executive Director
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August 18,2014

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