Today, March 8th is International Women’s Day. One block on the calendar out of 365 that was created to bring awareness to the acheivements of women as well as the perils that befall girls and women worldwide. The holiday came to be in the 1900’s with the advent of the sufragette movement which granted the right for women to vote. Hard to imagine that there was a time when that was even a discussion when there are a growing number of female leaders whose voices are raised in support of the rights of both women and men.
According to the U.N. :
- Up to 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16.
- Globally, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime.
- Up to 70% of women in the world report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.
- Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18.
Further, they state: This year’s theme for International Women’s Day, “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”
Perfectly timed was the signing into law, by President Obama, the expanded Violence Against Women Act that was originally penned by Vice President Biden. It provides for additional protections and legal action in the cases of domestic violence.
Some of the provisions include:
* holding rapists accountable for their crimes by strengthening federal penalties for repeat sex offenders and creating a federal “rape shield law,” which is intended to prevent offenders from using victims’ past sexual conduct against them during a rape trial;
*mandating that victims, no matter their income levels, are not forced to bear the expense of their own rape exams or for service of a protection order;
* keeping victims safe by requiring that a victim’s protection order will be recognized and enforced in all state, tribal, and territorial jurisdictions within the United States;
*increasing rates of prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of offenders by helping communities develop dedicated law enforcement and prosecution units and domestic violence dockets;
* ensuring that police respond to crisis calls and judges understand the realities of domestic and sexual violence by training law enforcement officers, prosecutors, victim advocates and judges; VAWA funds train over 500,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, and other personnel every year;
*providing additional tools for protecting women in Indian country by creating a new federal habitual offender crime and authorizing warrantless arrest authority for federal law enforcement officers who determine there is probable cause when responding to domestic violence cases.
ensured that victims and their families have access to the services they need to achieve safety and rebuild their lives by:
• responding to urgent calls for help by establishing the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which has answered over 3 million calls and receives over 22,000 calls every month; 92% of callers report that it’s their first call for help;
• improving safety and reducing recidivism by developing coordinated community responses that bring together diverse stakeholders to work together to prevent and respond to violence against women,
• focusing attention on the needs of underserved communities, including creating legal relief for battered immigrants so that abusers cannot use the victim’s immigration status to prevent victims from calling the police or seeking safety, and supporting tribal governments in building their capacity to protect American Indian and Alaska Native women.
VAWA has created positive change. Since VAWA was passed:
Fewer people are experiencing domestic violence.
Between 1993 to 2010, the rate of intimate partner violence declined 67%;
Between 1993 to 2007, the rate of intimate partner homicides of females decreased 35% and the rate of intimate partner homicides of males decreased 46%.
•More victims are reporting domestic and sexual violence to police, and reports to police are resulting in more arrests.
•States have reformed their laws to take violence against women more seriously:
All states have reformed laws that previously treated date or spousal rape as a lesser crime than stranger rape.
All states have passed laws making stalking a crime.
Reasons to celebrate and simultaneously shudder to consider that everyday countless are held hostage by anger, aggression and fear. I know many who are survivors of violence at the hands of strangers, as well as those who they expected would love and protect them, or at least not hurt them. I have stood witness (as a therapist) with clients whose mental and physical health have been challenged mightily by such incidents and have seen some triumph and others crumble under the weight of it all.
I honor the women in my life who have been role models of strength and resilience, whose go get ’em attitude inspire(d) me to do the same. My mother, grandmothers, aunts, mentors and friends have been part of the circle of women who so light up my life.
http://youtu.be/h4tNFPXjNB0 Women Honoring Song by Deva Troy
Tonight in my job as a therapist in a drug and alcohol oupatient treatment center, I facilitated my weekly Women’s Group. The topic of negative self talk came up and the ways in which it sabotagued their successes and undermined their wellbeing. Some had habitual gloom and doom thoughts, envisioning the worst possible outcome. That ‘stinkin’ thinkin’ as it is referred to in 12 step reccovery circles could be as addictive and insidious as the substances they had used that brought them to treatment. It occurred to me at that moment, that each of us has an inner bully and an inner ally. After writing those words on the white board, I asked the women to call out the attiributes of each. The words controlling, robbing self esteem, loss of respect, damaging, abusive came to mind. On the flip side, the words supportive, freeing, safety, got your back and by your side were some of what showed up on the ally tally.
In the same way that an external bully can devastate us and perhaps, in some cases, already have, so too can our overbearing (who put you in charge?) persona that can have us cowering in tears in a corner somewhere with just a raise of an eyebrow or a sarcastic comment. The sad part is that we believe the garbage that the bully spews at us, rather than challenging it and saying, hands on hips, “You’re not the boss of me,” in your best, determined to stand- your -ground voice. Remember that bullies are really pretty insecure and immature, who want to have the illusion of control when inside, they may be quivering in fear.
So how can we turn it around for ourselves and recognize the bully for what it is; the scared little kid part of ourselves that just wants to be heard and loved and is demanding attention, and is willing to receive it in negative ways? Chances are, it will go sulking back into its lair. What do your inner bully and ally look like? What do they say to you to both support and sabotague you? Whose voices come out of them? Do the messages sound familiar?
My inner bully sometimes looks and sounds like a snide, snarky know it all, garbed in a trim little black suit (not the fashion choice for this gracefully aging hippie who prefers flowing and sometimes colorful accoutrement) looking over her glasses at me, wagging her finger and demanding that I explain myself. She expects me to earn my keep, justify my existence, while encouraging me to play small, since after all, there are many more talented writers and teachers out there…hmmmmppphhh. My ally IS that gracefully aging Earth Mother hippie with the long hair of my early adulthood who in 1981, had just returned from Outward Bound with a broken pinkie, frostbite on both hands, bronchitis and a sprained ankle who never moved to Vermont as whe had once contemplated….after 10 days in the wilds of Maine and New Hampshire, she found it was too damn cold! This enthusiastic, take life by storm ,compact, fiercely independent young woman is now an integrated part of the 54 year old, more curvaceous, laugh lined, seasoned woman. Over the past 30 some years, she has invited kindred spirits to join the party, who believe in her, cheer her on, remind her who she truly is. With them at her side, that bully doesn’t stand a chance!
www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DZuzi-yH9VLo Friends- Elton John
If you are ever in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a must-see location is Tim’s Place where the motto is Breakfast, Lunch and Hugs. I recently heard of Tim Harris and his one of a kind restaurant that immediately appealed to this veteran hugger . He is, according to his family, the only person with Down Syndrome to own a restaurant in this country. I watched, with goosebumps and tears, a you tube video that shows this wonderful young man greet customers with a smile and hugs, waiting on tables and giving big time kudos to his kitchen staff, unabashedly telling them that he loves them. Now, how many cooks hear that from their bosses? If that was the case, Gordon Ramsey (host of Kitchen Nightmares) would have one less aggravation to deal with when doing his restaurant interventions. How many business owners gladly arise at the crack of dawn and do a parking lot ‘dance of magic’ each day before opening the doors? I think Tim may be unique in that regard as well.
What Tim shares in the video are these words of wisdom “The hugs are way more important than the food. Food is just food.” and waxes enthusiastically: “I am a lean, mean hugging machine. ” I have the sense though that love is a not-so-secret ingredient in the food as well, nourishing those who partake in body, mind and spirit. Tim’s family members are his most enthusiastic cheerleaders who clearly instilled in this remarkable young man, the belief that a chromosomal anomaly didn’t make for anything less than a remarkable life. Tim became a Special Olympian who states in the video that he has more medals than Michael Phelps. I don’t think he was joking. He is also an accomplished sailor. Would that every parent of a child who is different from what society might deem ‘normal’ see in them the potential that Tim’s mom and dad saw in their son who seems to embrace life with all he’s got. What a difference that person could make in the lives of so many others. Consider this…a customer walks into Tim’s Place, gets greeted at the door with a hug from Tim and then carries that contagious energy out into the world. How amazing would that be?
What inspires me the most about Tim is that he sees past what others might consider limitations. Tim affirms “We are a gift to the world.” Oh yeah!
The headline reminds me of the Who song
I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
C’mon tell me who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Oh, I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
A necessary inquiry if you want to live a full, rich life. Way too often we define ourselves by who we think others want us to be. Our family of origin has ideas and legacies that they may want us to fulfill. If the last five generations of your family were doctors, there is likely an expectation that you will choose that career path as well. What if, instead, you want to be a diplomat or artist? Imagine the pushback you may receive from your well meaning but perhaps misguided family members. Do you have the courage to take a stand for your own desires? I know people who have heard throughout their lives that their career ideas are pie in the sky and that they are living in fantasy land. Heck, I like pie (especially key lime and pumpkin) and fantasy land is one of my favorite places to hang out. My thought is that we wouldn’t have been given the idea to pursue a particular path if there wasn’t something of value awaiting us at the end of the path. I was blessed to have had parents who told me that I could do whatever I chose professionally, as long as I could support myself. I have a two page and growing resume that over the years has included divergent jobs including therapist, greeting card text writer, minister, speaker, writer, coach, social worker, radio host, massage practitioner. These don’t define me, but they do reflect my world view.
Who we are is far more than the name on our birth certificate or the words on the our resume or job app. It goes way deeper to the core of our being. What are your values? How do you treat yourself and the people around you? What do you have the courage to do every day? What fears and gremlins do you face when they roar at you? Or do you run from them? What would someone who is YOU want from life? Do you have the courage to ask for it and the willingness to embrace it when it shows up?
So many of us dance around the edges of life, rather than engaging it fully as a dance partner. Who will you chose to dance with today? I choose YOU!
What are you willing to take a stand for?
http://youtu.be/TBQnhyUq_-I Stand (by Karen Drucker) sung by Fawny Frost