Donna Bloom- Shifting Blame

Posted on May 2, 2019

A note from our Director of Legal Services, Donna Bloom JD, commenting on this article from Dallas News Why protective orders didn't stop ex-boyfriends from killing 2 Dallas-area women

Here's what Donna had to say: 

"This article once again focuses on the victim and what she didn’t do. It fails to address so many systemic issues like the low bond set for a strangulation case. Also, it’s great to have more comprehensive judicial oversight over high risk offenders but can we talk about how long it takes for a case to be investigated, arrest warrants to be issues, cases to be transferred from police to prosecutors and the length of a pending case before an offense is adjudicated. And this is often the result of understaffing and crowded court dockets. There’s so much work to be done and our conversation really needs to go beyond the depth of this article. And finally, protective orders are intended to work in concert with a system of accountability for the offender. A system where the crime is taken seriously by those who know better (do you see what I've done there... focus on us - judges, police, prosecutors, advocates - not her). We must do better and our desire to focus on what the victim does or does not do shifts blame and steals focus from solutions and the responsibility those of us who know better have to make her safe and her protective order more than a piece of paper."

Want to learn more about getting involved at Friends of the Family and advocating for victims of sexual and domestic violence?

Become a volunteer, join our speakers bureau or attend one of our upcoming educational programs. Learn more at dcfof.org/volunteer or email volunteer@dcfof.org 

About Donna Bloom 

Ms. Bloom has more than twenty-seven years of experience in the domestic violence field, having served as an executive director, community educator and client advocate and since 2007 as the Director of Legal Services where she provides civil legal services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.  Additionally, Ms. Bloom is seen as an expert in the field throughout the State of Texas and is a sought after speaker and trainer on the complex issues associated with the intersection between domestic violence and child abuse and neglect and civil and criminal justice remedies for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

About Friends of the Family

At Friends of the Family we provide compassionate, comprehensive services to those impacted by rape, sexual abuse, and domestic violence, while partnering with our community to promote safety, hope, healing, justice, and prevention.

If you or someone you know needs help please call our 24-hour crisis line at 940-382-7273 OR 800-572-4031.
 

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Why Drives Matter

Posted on May 1, 2019

Why Drives Matter 

Denton County Friends of the Family’s Marketing and Development Program keeps busy throughout the year by promoting and holding multiple donation drives. Our drives are to collect specific items for our clients in mass quantity. A huge aspect of domestic violence is financial abuse. This form of abuse may not be as obvious to the outside world as a bruise or an injury. Financial abuse is slow; it’s sweet gestures, it’s an illusion, and it’s isolating. Victims of financial abuse may hold down a job and work for a living, but they may not actually ever see their paycheck, or if they do see any money, it is an allowance strictly controlled by their partner. Another form of economic abuse is the sabotage of working conditions – creating an environment where the victim is fired or let go from their job. Finally, the destruction of their credit:  abusive partners will choose to take out many credit lines or rack up large purchases, which they then refuse to pay off, all in their victim's name, so when the victim does leave, they have no money and terrible credit, making moving on very difficult. We provide you with this information because it is the force behind why we hold these drives. Denton County Friends of the Family wants to do all we can to alleviate financial burdens and help our clients become financially independent, and one of the ways we do that is through our drives

 Swimsuit Drive: April – May 

The Swimsuit Drive is our newest drive, with a goal to collect 200+ swimsuits for our clients’ children. As we all know, children grow every year and swimsuits can be very expensive, especially for a mom who has multiple children. Her focus is not only on their wellbeing, but on putting food on the table, keeping the lights on, and having a roof over their heads. Swimsuits just may not be a top priority for mom, but they are for her children. Kids want to be able to wear a swimsuit that fits them well so they can have fun in the sun, and they deserve to have a memorable summer just like everyone else! Along with swimsuits, we are also collecting swim accessories such as towels, sunscreen, goggles, hats, etc. If you want to sign up to donate, you can visit our drive page below. If you would like to know what our biggest need is, feel free to reach out to Volunteer@dcfof.org

Swimsuit Drive

 Back to School Backpack Drive: June – August 

When summer begins, we set out to start collecting 400+ backpacks and school supplies for our clients’ children. Economic and financial abuse can be a big barrier for a parent getting all the required school supplies for her children. In order to alleviate that burden, we collect new backpacks and all the required school supplies for grades pre-k – 12. The key to a successful school year is having all the right tools at your fingertips, and that means having plenty of pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, and a good sturdy backpack for carrying all of one's textbooks. At the start of June, we will have our needs list posted up on the website, so be on the lookout for that, and if you would like to volunteer or host a drive at your place of business or school, please reach out to Volunteer@dcfof.org

 Thanksgiving Drive: October – November 

The holidays can be very difficult for our clients, as the focus is on family and their family is likely in a state of chaos. It is important for us to be able to empower our clients to have a fun holiday with their children and for them not to feel lost and alone during the holiday season. In October we start collecting canned goods and non-perishable food items for Thanksgiving as well as $10 gift cards. These items include boxed mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cornbread mix, canned veggies, pie filling, pie crusts, rice, beans, mac and cheese, and peanut butter and jelly. We put these kits together with the help of all our wonderful volunteers. Since we are unable to provide protein, like meats and fresh veggies, we collect $10 gift cards to allow the families a choice in the type of meat they provide for their families on Thanksgiving. If you would like to either volunteer or collect these items in October and November, please e-mail Volunteer@dcfof.org

 Adopt a Family: November – December 

Our final and largest drive of the year begins in November, and that is our Adopt a Family Drive. Every year, we ask our clients to provide us with Christmas/Holiday gift wish lists for their children. We then take that list, change the name of the child and pass it on to a donor, who then goes and shops for the child. We request one outfit and three gifts for each child. We also provide a meal kit like our Thanksgiving drive’s meal kit for any family that would like one. We collected gifts for over 700 children last year! It is a massive undertaking, and the community really steps up and helps support our clients in what can be the most difficult time of year for our clients who just want to provide a safe, happy, and memorable holiday season for their children. If you would like to volunteer your time to help sort and organize the donations or would like to shop for a child or family, please e-mail Volunteer@dcfof.org at the beginning of November through the beginning of December. 

 Driving to Safety: All Year 

We have one drive that takes place throughout the year, and that is our Driving to Safety campaign. As we all know, gas prices fluctuate and with summer quickly approaching, prices will begin to soar. When you are just starting again on a path to financial independence, purchasing gas can be another financial burden. We strive to help alleviate that stress by providing gas gift cards and bus passes so that our clients have the freedom to not only come to our Outreach for services, but they can pick up their children from school, go grocery shopping and go to work. If you would like to donate money to a gas gift card or would like to purchase gas gift cards for our clients, you can do so by visiting our Driving to Safety Campaign via the button below.  

Driving to Safety 

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Cultivating a Culture of Consent

Posted on April 24, 2019

As Sexual Assault Awareness Month comes to a close, it’s important to reflect on the ways in which the occurrence of sexual assault is perpetuated by our everyday attitudes and actions, as well as by the longstanding sociocultural systems we exist within. As it stands, our society unfortunately exists as a place where every 92 seconds an American is sexually assaulted (RAINN), victims often feel silenced and ostracized, and when they do speak, their voices often fall on deaf ears. This is exactly what is trying to be highlighted in conversations about rape culture. While the term “rape culture” helps us to understand the insidious ways in which sexual assault is a deep cultural problem, it begs the question of what can be done to affirmatively and proactively combat it. What kind of culture can we cultivate as an alternative?

Consent culture is a culture which normalizes the action of asking for consent and respecting whatever responses are given. It affirms that each individual has bodily autonomy and maintains that boundaries (a person’s right to choose what is comfortable to them) should be respected unconditionally. The foundation of this culture is built upon a basic understanding of consent. Consent involves an enthusiastic, affirmative, and voluntary “yes” that is not implied or assumed in the absence of a “no” and can be revoked at any time. While consent should always be given in situations of sexual interaction, it doesn’t only apply here. Consent culture should be extended to all facets of life and treating it as such is imperative in efforts to combat both rape culture and sexual assault.

What are some practical ways to cultivate a culture of consent? Teach the concept of consent early and model it! Showing children what consent looks like and that they have a right to develop and maintain healthy boundaries is integral to the process of creating a culture of consent. Beyond this, helping children to ask for consent and accept rejection in their everyday interactions with friends and family members creates a foundation for their relationships later in life. Some basic ways this can be achieved is by asking children for permission, giving them multiple alternatives in situations when asking them to do something (so they can make choices based on their personal boundaries), and preparing them for bodily autonomy and independence. 

Teaching children about consent is just one component of creating a culture of consent. In order to successfully cultivate a culture of consent, we must constantly ask how the concept of consent can be applied to our lives and integrated into our everyday actions. We must be respectful, and not dismissive, of the boundaries people establish, while simultaneously maintaining the boundaries we establish for ourselves. 

Written By: Nadia Rosales

Learn More 

Resources:
National Sexual Violence Resource Center
RAINN
LoveisRespect.org

Additional References:
Leary, M. (2016). Affirmatively replacing rape culture with consent culture. Texas Tech Law Review 49(1), 1-56.

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Intersection of Domestic Violence and Homelessness

Posted on April 17, 2019

The intersection of homelessness and domestic violence is the connection of two extraordinarily serious social issues facing communities. Survivors fleeing abusive relationships often must leave their homes, with no other available housing options. Advocates within this field consistently see women and families become homeless as a direct result of domestic violence, and this, in turn, increases the risks for survivors experiencing abuse.

Survivors face numerous barriers to safety on a daily basis and are often trapped between experiencing continued violence or homelessness. Abusers use control tactics to isolate the survivor from their support network(s), limit their access to finances, employment, or education, cut them off from community resources, and create a constant state of fear. An abuser’s use of power and control can create barriers to accessible housing for the survivor. Abusers will often destroy a survivor’s credit or rental history by generating debt in the survivor’s name or defaulting on bills that have the survivor’s name listed on them, which then makes it increasingly more difficult to obtain a lease. Survivors may also experience lack of steady employment, resulting from missing work due to violence or being fired due to the abuser’s stalking/harassing behaviors. Many survivors also face housing discrimination when landlords evict them due to repeated police presence at the apartment or property damage caused by the abuser.  Abusers may also cause a survivor to lose subsidized or other affordable housing by violating the voucher requirements or rental agreement. These barriers are further compounded for people who experience additional forms of oppression, such as people of color, the LGBTQ community, First Nations people, immigrants, persons with disabilities, and individuals experiencing poverty. Folks with children also face additional risks. With a lack of resources, survivors are often forced to choose between continued violence and not knowing where their child’s shelter and next meal will come from. 

It is imperative for communities to recognize the intersection of homelessness and domestic violence and join in the fight to combat both these forms of oppression. Community partners make our work at Denton County Friends of the Family possible. We would not be able to provide safety, support, and housing for survivors without your continued help. Below are ways that you can get involved to help our community.  

Written By: Taylor Cameron, MS, LPC, NCC

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Start By Believing

Posted on April 5, 2019

#StartByBelieving

TAKE THE PLEDGE

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (#SAAM). The purpose behind #SAAM is to spread awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault and the impact that it has on victims and survivors. As community members, we all have a choice to advocate for victims in our daily lives. Whether it is through volunteering, sharing social media posts about the issue, or holding those accountable around you when they perpetuate the cycle of violence, you have the power to be a part of the solution and stand up for victims.

In honor of #SAAM, take the pledge to #StartByBelieving! As an advocate in the community, you pledge to:

  • Start by believing when someone tells you they were raped or sexually assaulted
  • Support survivors on the road to justice and healing
  • Help end the silence.

2 in 5 women in Texas will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. With the rise of the #MeToo movement we have an opportunity to be a part of a grassroots change to support and believe victims of sexual assault. Take the pledge and be a part of the solution this #SAAM!

TAKE THE PLEDGE

Learn more about End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI) visit their website: www.startbybelieving.org
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Know The Warning Signs

Posted on April 3, 2019

Know the Warning Signs 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. According to TAASA (Texas Association Against Sexual Assault), Sexual Assault is best understood as a broader continuum of unwanted non-mutual sexual actions that range from subtle to extremely violent. It can include but is not limited to rape, sexual threats, intimidation, incest, sexual assault by intimate partners, child sexual abuse, human sexual trafficking, sexual harassment, street harassment, and other forms of unwelcomed, coerced or non-consensual activity.  

Sexual Assault can happen to anyone. As advocates, it is our duty to know the warning signs of those who may be survivors of Sexual Assault, and how to best assist them in their healing. 

With any rape, sexual assault, or domestic abuse case, as a friend or ally, always believe the victim. Believe the warning signs that there is trauma and feel encouraged to reach out to our Crisis Line at any time, day or night. 800-572-4031 or 940-387-7273 

Warning Signs for Adults: 

  • Depression 
  • Self-harm 
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Anxiety 
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections 
  • Avoidance of people or places  
  • Failing grades/lack of work productivity 
  • Increase in drug/alcohol intake 

Warning Signs for Teens: 

  • Unusual weight gain or loss 
  • Unhealthy eating patterns (loss of appetite or excessive eating) 
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections 
  • Depression 
  • Expressing thoughts of suicide 
  • Anxiety / Worry 
  • Failing grades 

Warning Signs for Children: 

  • Exposing oneself  
  • Sharing obscene images 
  • Trauma to genitals or unexplained bleeding 
  • Sexual behavior inappropriate for a child that age 
  • Bed Wetting 
  • Not wanting to be left alone with certain people 
  • Avoids removing clothing or taking baths 
  • Excessive talk or knowledge about sexual acts 
  • Resuming behaviors that they had already outgrown 

If you ever notice any of these warning signs in a friend or loved one, let them know you are there for them, believe them when they choose to tell you their story, have open communication, and let them know that they can reach out to our Crisis Line 24-hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year at 800-572-4031 or 940-387-7273.  

Eight out of ten victims of sexual assault know their perpetrator, which means that there could be dynamics involved that you are not aware of. If the sexual assault was recent, you can always encourage the survivor to call 911, but it is important to understand that it is their choice whether to report their assault or not. Remember that your role as their support system is to believe them and help them access resources, but it is not to take control of the situation or tell them what to do.  

You can learn more about the warning signs and what sexual assault is by visiting both the TAASA and Rainn websites linked below.  

TAASA

RAINN

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