Saturday, April 30, 2011

Domestic Violence Shelters - The Basics

Domestic violence shelters are a relatively recent development in the modern world.  They are independently run transitional living situations for women and children who need a place to hide out and recover from family abuse. Almost all are nonprofits, receiving operating funds from a combination of donations, local, state, and federal grants.  There is never a charge to the women who use the services.

Because they are connected only by referral networks, each one has a personality, rules, and services different from other shelters, but they do share some things in common:  they are free, they are secret in that no one knows where they are and occupants pledge not to tell where they are living, and safety and confidentiality are high priorities.

The most basic service provided by domestic violence shelters is to hide women in danger, when something about a family breakdown escalates to the point where moving in with a friend or relative, or moving to a different location won't keep a woman safe.  Children are included both because mom is their primary caregiver or because they are being abused as well -- don't forget that witnessing abuse is considered child abuse even if the child is not the one being attacked.

HOW DO I FIND A SHELTER?  There are several ways to access a domestic violence shelter.  One is to get a referral from police who answer a domestic violence help call or talk to you at the police station about an incident that has frightened you.  The other is to call a domestic violence hotline, a 24-hour telephone number which can connect you with places to live in safety while you decide what to do next.  There are such hotlines around the world.  The internet is the best place to look - and please do your looking on a safe computer, one to which your abuser has no access.

CALLING A HOTLINE:  One of the scariest things in life is calling a domestic violence hotline.  Not only is it embarrassing to share you personal problems with a voice over the phone, what if they tell you you are exaggerating or lying, or they have no place for someone like you.

While it is possible to have a bad experience with a DV hotline, it is far more likely that you will be glad you called.  Shelters are not connected to any law enforcement or immigration agency.  You do not have to give your real name or any other personal information.  Everything you might choose to tell a hotline counselor is confidential, with the possible exception of instances of child abuse where the agency may be a mandated reporter.  If you think this might apply to your situation, ask what the policies are and what help the agency offers.


1.  I have to be sure I want a divorce before they will help me.  Severe family dysfunction is a very complicated situation.  It is typical for women to leave several times, hoping the acute problems will die down, then reconcile and return to the home to see if things will be better.  No one will be surprised or angry with you if you return to your partner.  The shelter will be there for you if you need it in the future.

2.  I have to have a police report to be taken seriously.  Domestic violence advocates and support organizations understand far better than the "outside world" that abuse doesn't have to be physical to be destructive, frightening, and overwhelming for adults and children.  Hotline counselors can help you decide if a shelter is what you need at this point.

3.  I have to be poor and without other resources to qualify for shelter.  The reason for going to a domestic violence shelter is because you are not safe from being stalked, harassed or attacked in an ordinary living situation.  If your abusive partner could show up at the homes of relatives or friends if you stay with them, staying in a place where you cannot be tracked down is an important option to know about. 
While at the shelter you will have a safe place to live and access to counseling, legal services, and assistance with planning your future.  You can also access these services from the organization that runs the shelter without actually staying at the shelter. 

4.  I have special needs, a disability, keep kosher, can't leave my pet, etc.  Talk to hotline counselors about your situation.  You aren't the first person with needs.  There are solutions for them all.

5.  I called a hotline and they were rude, uninformed, or said they couldn't help me.  Please, please, please call another hotline, and keep asking until you get the information you need and are treated in a way that makes you feel comfortable and safe.

6.  Do I have to be in crisis to call?  Absolutely not!  Call with your questions, concerns, or just to be heard by somebody who understands what you are going through and will keep your conversation confidential.  A DV advocate can also help you formulate a safety plan to help you weather the next outburst or blowup in your relationship. 

There are lots of links about domestic violence on the web.  Here's one WNL particularly likes.
There is help out there.  You deserve it!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pelvic Floor Pilates Video - "Down There" Explained

Maybe you have already discovered your pelvic floor muscles when they stop doing their job and you experience a bulging sensation, aching genital area, and urine dribbling, with or without exercise.  Was it those pregnancies that did the damage?  A hysterectomy that removed the support for your vagina and bladder?  There is even the possibility that some popular gym and fitness exercises like situps can damage pelvic floor integrity (Australians Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist & Dr Judith Goh Urogynaecologist, in their book "Inside Out").

A visit to the doctor will get you maybe a workup, but definitely a paper with Kegel exercise directions and the rememdy "Go home and do this X times a day".  Confusion, despair, and abandonment of the project usually follow.  Who knows what's down there and what to squeeze and what not to squeeze to get the promised ultimate result.

Ten years ago stopping and starting urine flow was the way to do Kegels.  Now the wisdom is DON'T stop and start urine flow because that effort can damage the sphincters and even cause a bladder infection.

HELP!  There is a video you can watch and re-watch in the privacy of your own home that describes exactly how to exercise the mystery muscles that make up the pelvic floor.  While there are a lot - hundreds - of videos, books, DVD's, and articles on the web, this one is a standout, worth putting on WNL for readers around the world.

The anonymous instructor lady in this video for PilatesUnion UK explains how to isolate the pelvic floor muscles so clearly that anybody can figure out what they are squeezing and how Kegel exercises are supposed to feel when done correctly.  You'll still have to do the strengthening exercises - but finding the muscles is half the battle.  At least you'll know you are doing it right, when you remember to do it.

If you are just now worrying about your pelvic floor integrity, or have already tried Kegels and given up on them, give the video a look.  Your pelvic floor will reward you for your efforts.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

"My Dreams are More Important than My Plans"

Here's the graphic for my new inspirational t-shirt/hoodie at Red Bubble.  Pick from two versions, one with white flowers and one without white.  Choose your own colors and styles.  This one looks adorable in a kids version.  There's even a sticker version for your bathroom mirror.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 8, 2011

When Presidents Rape

Alpha males are notorious womanizers, as you well know if you dated, married, or worked for one.  But is it possible to go too far once you've reached the lofty heights of president of a modern nation?  Two current cases in the news suggest that it might just be possible.

EXHIBIT A:  Ex-President of Israel, Moshe Katsav (on the right in the photo), was convicted by a three-judge District Court in March, 2011, of rape, sexual assault, and harassment of three women employed in his vicinity, and of obstruction of justice.  Katsav has denied all the charges and backed out of a plea deal offered by the court that would have involved pleading guilty to lesser charges with no jail time.  Hoping to salvage his good name, he opted for the trial which resulted in the multiple convictions.  Sentencing will be in May.

EXHIBIT B:  Current Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is to appear (or not) before a court in Milan to examine, for the first time, his private life, notably whether he had sex with an underage Moroccan girl who may or may not be a sex worker, lied to police to get her released from jail, and other assorted claims of favoritism.  Berlusconi has survived court inquiries into his business/political life before, and when corruption trials were on the horizon, had laws changed to protect himself.  He is making jokes about the current trial when not blaming it on persecution by left-wingers.

Is this a new day dawning for women in Europe?  For women in general everywhere?  WNL decided to take a look at some of the reporting on both these trials, both in the United States, and in Israel and Italy, home base for the two Alphas.

In Israel, there are two notable opinions about Katsav's recent convictions.
“This is a sad day for the State of Israel and its residents,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement after the verdict.
He added: “Today, the court conveyed two clear-cut messages — that all are equal before the law and that every woman has exclusive rights to her body.” (
Women's rights advocates agreed, The NYT  reporting
Israeli women’s groups hailed the verdict. “Finally, victims in Israel feel validated,” said Miriam Schler, director of the Tel Aviv Rape Crisis Center, who was among a hundred or so women’s rights activists gathered outside the court. “It is an extremely historic day.”
Fewer than 20 percent of the women who contact Israel’s rape crisis centers file complaints, and of those cases that are filed, 64 percent end without an indictment, Ms. Schler said.
But the only reason there was a trial was because of Katsav's insistence on it, arrogantly and it turns out foolishly refusing to believe he could possibly be convicted. 
Katsav resigned in June 2007 and became a leper of the political establishment. He was only formally indicted in March 2009, more than two years after the case went public.
He initially accepted a plea bargain that incensed women's rights groups. However, he later decided that instead of facing trial for lesser charges he would "fight until the truth comes out" and called the deal off.
As he read the verdict on Thursday, presiding Judge George Kara told the former president that this decision was "a grave mistake." (reported by AlJazeera)
So, although Katsav was forced to resign the presidency and "became a leper", there was no will to prosecute him for anything that might involve jail time, so he was immediately offered, and initially accepted, a plea deal that would have been a legal slap on the wrist.  Turns out the "extremely historic day" was actually a miscalculation by the defendent, and instead of being reprimanded by the presiding judge for being a convicted rapist, Katsav was told passing up the offer to resolve the matter by admitting to lesser charges was "a grave mistake."

Turning to Italian politics, flamboyant 74-year-old billionaire and media mogul (and, oh yes, Prime Minister of Italy) Silvio Berlusconi gives the impression of being fully in control of the latest scandal in his presidency.  He's in control, all right.  Benedetta Brevini explains how in this article for UK's Guardian
What is even more alarming is the constant spin and censorship on all Italian news reports coming from RAI [Italian public television, controlled by the government] and from Berlusconi's commercial TV monopoly. The recent demonstrations that have broken out in several Italian cities have not even been mentioned by the majority of TV news reports. It has been alleged by La Repubblica that the chief editor of Berlusconi's family newspaper, the news director of the Mediaset empire and the directors of Berlusconi's magazines have all been summoned to a crucial meeting at the government's headquarters in Rome to plan the spin for the days to come.
Most of the work of the propaganda machine is obviously concentrated on television. Often it involves telling editors to spread the same, consistent message: that the magistrates are illegitimately prosecuting the prime minster, that the critical newspapers are publishing lies and that the electorate – il popolo – has given Berlusconi the mandate to rule, and therefore il popolo is his only natural judge. Montesquieu would rightly be rolling in his grave.
So what is then left for Italian people to ascertain? How can they secure an unbiased public opinion, brainwashed as they are by their own videocracy? Certainly, they could start reading newspapers. But why should they do so when for decades they have been told that newspapers are owned by communists and spread lies?
The Italian democratic emergency is not due to Italian admiration for a Casanova prime minster, as we so often read in the foreign media. It is due to Berlusconi's unconstitutional media empire and his efficient, unchallenged propaganda machine.
Turns out that this tempest over an underage Moroccan prostitute (for more on her, check out this Guardian article) is actually an attempt to get a handle on an out-of-control PM by the only opposing force left in Italian society, the magistrates,  a combination of judges and prosecutors often involved in anti-corruption efforts within the country.  According to this article in Time Magazine, the magistrates were able to bring down the previous government in Italy, and in the 1990s heroically took on the Mafia, resulting in the murders of a number of prosecutors.

So this isn't about women at all, not even the underage woman it is supposed to be about.  This is one part of an attempt by those who are sick of Berlusconi's corruption and control and his making a laughing stock of Italy on the world stage (for example, his chummy agreements with BFF Muammar Gadaffi and his unfunny "bunga bunga" party references) to start moving him to the sidelines.

WNL's CONCLUSION:  Alpha males come and go, even on the world stage, but how they treat women has nothing to do with their rise or their fall.  Women are nothing more than collateral damage - if anybody is bothering to keep those statistics.

(photo of Berlusconi and Katsav together on some official occasion from a news service)