SCCADVASAdamond

Communications Coordinator

Jul 202015
 

Me with the facilitators of the Lulu Project at my goodbye party

This week, almost 8,000 miles away, a group of almost 50 young women danced their way up the aisle of a church hall, making their lively entrance into their graduation ceremony. It is graduation time at the Lulu Project, a year-long peer education program in Mwanza, Tanzania, in which teen women learn from other young women just like them about life skills, personal and family health, and entrepreneurship. I became involved in the program in 2013 when I was living in the East African country of Tanzania. As a Maryknoll Lay Missioner in Tanzania, I had been living in the city of Mwanza and working for a year at a Tanzanian NGO (non-government organization) called Kivulini. Kivulini (which in Swahili means “under the shade,” connoting the image of a safe place for women to meet) is a rights organization that educates about women’s rights in Tanzania and mobilizes communities to make change in the northwest of the country around Lake Victoria. I had been training staff to increase their capacity to run effective programs and assisting the agency to improve their human rights campaigns. Since Tanzania’s political and legal system is very “bottom-up” focused, Kivulini’s main approach is to educate local leaders to support victims of sexual and domestic violence. These are the first service providers faced by victims of crime and their success or failure can be helped or hindered at this very first step.

Me facilitating a workshop for Lulu facilitators on healthy relationships.

Before moving to Tanzania, I worked as Community Education Director at Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands (STSM), a Columbia-based rape crisis center serving four counties in South Carolina. As Education Director, I facilitated hundreds of workshops on a variety of topics related to sexual violence and domestic abuse and developed a violence prevention program. I became very skilled at answering difficult questions about sexual violence, its root causes, systemic barriers, and ways to support victims and prevent it from happening in the first place. Quite naively, I thought my experiences had adequately prepared me to work in any global context to prevent violence against women. Violence is violence, right? Yes, of course it is and yes, the root causes are the same – a subjugation of another’s power in order to exert one’s control over them. Certainly there are many similarities between what I saw in my work at STSM and at Kivulini: dismissive responses by some communities about the prevalence and realities of violence, victim-blaming statements, the insistence that people abuse because they love the victim and want to “correct” ill behaviors, the false belief that men are victims just as often as women are, or the use of religion or God to defend abuse, etc. But what I wasn’t prepared for was how the differences in social, cultural, economic, familial, and religious contexts drastically impact approaches to violence prevention and intervention. Furthermore, in this country of almost 50 million people, where domestic violence shelters are virtually nonexistent, where there is no real evidence collection protocol for victims of rape, and where female genital mutilation is still widely practiced in some tribes, I found myself unprepared to work to make change on a macro-level. That’s when I found Lulu.

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Me with Elizabeth and Bahati, two of Lulu’s senior facilitators.

After being quite honest with myself that I just did not know enough about the culture to make sustainable and appropriate systemic change, I was compelled to work on a grass-roots level with young women themselves, to learn about their lives and the situations in which they live-the challenges and the joys-and to help them use the tools they inherently have to fight for changes in their country. Lulu, which means “pearl” in Swahili, works with over 200 girls in 8 neighborhoods around Mwanza to help young women appreciate that they are a treasure to their family and their community and to give them skills to improve their lives and the lives of their children. Due to a Tanzanian law that makes it illegal for pregnant girls to continue in school, thousands of unskilled, uneducated young mothers drop out each year, creating an abundance of women who are at higher risk of being forced into early marriage, more likely to be abused by a partner or spouse, and more likely to sell their bodies for money. This is a cycle that has repeated for generations all around the world. As co-coordinator of the Lulu Project, I got a first-hand education in violence prevention in the developing world. I saw a girl who cannot read or write start a small business of her own, earning the funds she needed to get out of an abusive relationship; I saw a woman who dropped out of 8th grade save money to build her family a safe, secure home; I saw shy young women who at first couldn’t look you in the eye transformed into proud leaders standing in front of local representatives demanding to be treated with respect. These women have a lot to celebrate as they dance at their graduation this week.

Me giving a speech at a Lulu graduation. The backs of the girls shirts say “Ushirikiano. Uthubutu. Ubinifu.” These are the three pillars of Lulu: cooperation, self-esteem, and creativity.

But I didn’t attend that graduation. I am back in the US now, back in South Carolina. As the new Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator at SCCADVASA (the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault), I am back in a country where we have hundreds of rape crisis centers for victims of sexual assault, where there are laws protecting abused women from losing their children if they leave their abusive partner, and in a state where many hospitals and emergency rooms have specially-trained nurses to document and collect evidence from victims of rape. When I told my Tanzanian friends and colleagues that I was leaving and returning to the US to continue working in violence prevention, they were confused. Many people in Tanzania look to America as a place where we “have it all together,” where intimate partner violence just doesn’t exist. They point to all the services we have and all the wealth that our country displays and wonder why an organization such as SCCADVASA exists in the first place. For all the wonderful things about America and all the strides we have made in this field, we still have a far way to go. For example, even though we have a protocol for collecting evidence after a sexual assault (called a rape kit), across the country there is a big backlog of having these kits tested. In South Carolina we don’t know how many kits are being held by law enforcement; therefore, we don’t have an accurate understanding of how big the problem is nor of how we can work to improve systemic responses that will improve outcomes for survivors and increase accountability for offenders. Also, many agencies that work with children, such as the Department of Social Services and others need to incorporate and improve systems to screen for domestic violence and the effects of trauma on children. Because our state lacks a unified system for collecting statics on various sexual and domestic abuses it’s impossible to get an accurate picture of how vast a problem this is, let alone to demand for the services that victims in this state need and deserve.

As Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator at SCCADVASA, I look forward to working with others in this field as we fight to tackle these and many other pressing issues in our state. Since 1981 SCCADVASA has been a leader in representing the critical needs of survivors of domestic and sexual abuse and their families by influencing public policy, advocating for social change, and building the capacity of member programs, organizations and communities across the state. I will be using my experiences from my grassroots and macro work both in the US and in Tanzania and will be bringing them home to create a safer and more just South Carolina.

 Posted by on July 20, 2015 Blog Comments Off on Finding Lulu: The Tanzanian Connection
Jun 082015
 

Each year the SC Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault gather advocates, member organizations and the community to hold its Annual Meeting. The Annual Meeting is conducted every year to
honor the programs and staff that work with victims and survivors. This year, the Annual Meeting introduced new staff members, reviewed 2014 as a coalition and gave awards to advocates across the state.

SCCADVASA Staff

SCCADVASA Staff

SCCADVASA Board Chair Eddy Weinberg opened this year’s Annual Meeting with lunch provided by the Brookland Banquet and Conference Center. Sara Barber, Executive Director, reviewed her first year as Executive Director of the organization and introduced our new staff members, Valerie Ekue and Katie Reid, followed by a video that reviewed some key moments, key events and key people from the previous year.

Leslie H. Sims Distinguished Humanitarian Award Winner Patrick Anderson

Leslie H. Sims Distinguished Humanitarian Award Winner Patrick Anderson

The highlight of every Annual Meeting is the presentation of awards to survivors, allies and advocates. Each year our member organizations nominate volunteers, advocates and allies whose work impact victims, survivors and families of victims and survivors. This year we were honored to award Male Ally Advocate of the Year
 to Christan Rainey who was nominated by Elmire Raven of My Sister’s House; Criminal Justice Advocate of the Year to Detective J. B. Kelley who was nominated by Shannon Lambert of the Pickens County Advocacy Center; Media Professional Advocate of the Year to
 The Post & Courier who was nominated by both Elmire Raven of My Sister’s House and Becky Callaham of Safe Harbor; Volunteer Advocate of the Year to 
Donna Reiss; Underserved Communities Advocate of the Year to Virginia Vedilago who was nominated by Elmire Raven; Faith Community Advocate of the Year to Theresa Roberts who was nominated by Kristin Dubrowski of CODA; Healthcare Professional Advocate of the Year to Kelli Clune who was nominated by Marlene Evans of SAFE Homes Rape Crisis Coalition; Elected Official Advocate of the Year to Senator Katrina Shealy nominated by Sara Barber of SCCADVASA and the Leslie H. Sims Distinguished Humanitarian Award to
Patrick Anderson who was nominated by Sarah Moran Nevarez of Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands.

All photos from the event can be found on our Facebook page!

 

 Posted by on June 8, 2015 Blog Comments Off on SCCADVASA’s 2015 Annual Meeting

Apr 222015
 

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Join us Monday, April 27th at 6pm! Attorney General Alan Wilson and SC Senator Katrina Shealy already committed. We have invited all members of the Lexington County Legislative Delegation to serve as panelists.

 Permalink  Posted by on April 22, 2015 Blog Comments Off on
Mar 202015
 
 Posted by on March 20, 2015 Blog, Domestic Violence, Upcoming Events Comments Off on Support SCCADVASA at the Miss Victorious Pageant
Feb 232015
 

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ADVOCATES AND SERVICE PROVIDERS URGE SENATE TO MOVE QUICKLY TO ADOPT STRONGEST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE LAW POSSIBLE 

Senate Adjourns Amid Discussions on Weakening Senate Bill 3, Life-Saving Domestic Violence Bill Up for Debate

The State Senate adjourned on Thursday without taking action on Senate Bill 3, a life-saving domestic violence bill that would protect South Carolina’s victims of abuse. The bill would require stronger penalties for those convicted of abuse, streamline orders of protection for victims of abuse, and prohibit convicted domestic abusers, and abusers under active orders of protection, from possessing firearms – a key step toward reducing South Carolina’s deadly rate of domestic violence homicides.  

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The Senate adjourned amid discussion on a series of amendments that – if adopted – could seriously weaken the bill and despite fresh evidence that South Carolina voters overwhelmingly support the firearm prohibition in the bill.    

One possible amendment discussed on the floor would seek to exempt abusers who have been convicted of criminal domestic violence in the third degree from the prohibition on possessing firearms. This class of offenders includes individuals who have battered and bruised their victims – typically during an ongoing pattern of coercion and abuse.  

While the proposed amendment would give judges the option to order a defendant not to possess guns, magistrates in South Carolina are appointed by Senators. This could open a way for their views on firearm prohibitions to become a “litmus” test for appointment. The adoption of this amendment could lead to a disparity of outcomes across the state and decrease safety for many victims of domestic violence.

Between 2007 and 2011, women in South Carolina were twice as likely to be shot and killed by their intimate partners as the average American woman.[1] Research also shows the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that the woman will be killed.[2]

Federal law prohibits convicted domestic abusers from possessing firearms, but South Carolina’s weak domestic violence laws make it nearly impossible for state and local law enforcement to ensure domestic abusers who are legally prohibited from owning firearms do not possess them.  

Efforts to strengthen the state’s domestic violence laws are widely supported by South Carolina voters. Three independent polls conducted between October 2014 and February 15, 2015 find that more than three-quarters of voters in South Carolina support policies that will keep guns out of domestic abusers’ hands.[3] [4]Almost two-thirds of those polled as recently as this month agree convicted abusers should turn in guns they already own.[5] 

“South Carolina’s domestic violence survivors have waited long enough for our elected leaders to address our state’s alarming record of domestic violence shootings. Now that we finally have a chance to take action to protect our state’s abuse victims, some senators are attempting to derail the progress we’ve made by attempting to undermine S.3’s vital goal, which is to save women’s lives,” said Sara Barber, SCCADVASA Executive Director. “It is imperative for the Senate to reject any amendments that would critically undermine the intentions of the bill’s sponsors and endanger the lives of domestic violence victims throughout our state.”


[1] Everytown analysis of data obtained from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Supplementary Homicide Reports, 2008-2012, available online at http://bit.ly/1oWiuB3.   

[2] Jacqueline C. Campbell, Daniel Webster, and Jane Koziol-McLain, “Risk Factors for Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results from a Multisite Case Control Study,” American Journal of Public Health 93, no. 7 (June 2003): 1089-1097, http://1.usa.gov/1osjCet.

[3] http://www.winthrop.edu/news-events/article.aspx?id=37305

[4] http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20141022/PC1603/141029780

[5] http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2015/PPP_Release_SC_22015.pdf

 Posted by on February 23, 2015 Blog Comments Off on Bill S.3 Debate Continues
Jan 202015
 

Christan Rainey, whose mother and siblings were shot and killed by his stepfather speaks about the importance of passing S.3 if we are serious about working towards reducing the toll of domestic violence.

S.3 will revoke convicted offenders’ ability to legally possess firearms and give law enforcement and prosecutors more tools to hold abusers accountable for committing this crime. The bill will have its first hearing on Tuesday, January 20 at 1pm. Call your Senator to urge them to support this important legislation.

By passing Senate Bill 03, South Carolina will join the movement to keep women safe. In 2014, six states (WI, MN, NH, VT, LA, WA) passed bills that will keep guns out of abusers’ hands. These measures passed with bipartisan support and were signed into law by governors of both parties.

Please take a moment to help victims of domestic violence and their children. Call, email or write your senator today, urging him/her to support Senate Bill 3!

Not sure what to say? Use our sample letter: http://ow.ly/Ht3j3

 Posted by on January 20, 2015 Blog Comments Off on Pass Senate Bill 3
Jan 202015
 

south_carolina_statehouse2The South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (SCCADVASA) released the statement below from Executive Director Sara Barber today in response to the unanimous referral of S.3 from subcommittee to the Senate’s full Judiciary committee.

Between 2007 and 2011, women in South Carolina were twice as likely to be shot to death by their partners than the average American woman. S.3 would protect South Carolina families by prohibiting convicted domestic abusers and individuals subject to domestic violence orders of protection from legally possessing firearms.

Attorney General Alan Wilson, Senator Larry Martin and Speaker of the House, Jay Lucas, along with more than three dozen public officials – elected representatives, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, victim advocates, and domestic violence survivors – came together earlier this week at the State House to declare their shared commitment to do more to reduce domestic violence in South Carolina.

STATEMENT FROM SARA BARBER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF SCCADVASA:

We are so pleased to see lawmakers from both chambers and both sides of the aisle embrace the need to do more to hold domestic abusers accountable for their actions. By increasing penalties on domestic violence offenders and placing reasonable limits on firearm possession, S.3 marks an important step forward for South Carolina and its renewed dedication to protecting women and families across our state.  This bill would go a long way to reducing the high cost of domestic violence on our families and in our communities.

“We urge lawmakers to consider reasonable measures that will ensure individuals who have been convicted of domestic violence or found through a due process legal proceeding to pose a danger to a partner in a domestic relationship do not have legal access to firearms. We look forward to working with lawmakers to incorporate these public safety measures into the bill.

 Posted by on January 20, 2015 Blog, Domestic Violence Tagged with: , ,  Comments Off on Statement from SCCADVASA in Response to Opening of Legislative Session and Passage of DV Prevention Bill Passed Through Senate Judiciary Subcommittee
Jan 162015
 

On Tuesday, SC Attorney General made a call to action for South Carolina legislators to pass reform to domestic violence laws in South Carolina.

SCCADVASA’s Executive Director, Sara Barber, spoke at this rally that happened in the Statehouse rotunda. Here is what she said,

IMG_20150113_114259250Stories of heartbreaking tragedy and loss like the one Christian just shared have been, and continue to be, far too common in our state. The silhouettes around us serve as a stark reminder of mothers and daughters, fathers and sons who have been taken from life and loved ones by extreme acts of domestic violence.

 Many others continue to live in the tangled knot of domestic violence, held there by an overwhelming mixture of factors such as love, fear, faith, shame, guilt, financial instability or a lack of access to resources that could help. It is time for us as a state to ask survivors about their hopes and dreams, how systems can support their path forward, and to work towards solutions that meet the realities of their lives and needs. It is time that we no longer accept domestic violence as an ongoing tradition in our communities. It is time that we seek to address the cultural environment in which domestic violence continues to thrive.

 Passing legislation that improves the ability of law enforcement and prosecutors to hold offenders accountable on many levels will be a meaningful and important step in this effort. Many of those gathered here today have been important leaders in building the momentum necessary to make meaningful changes to the legal landscape against which we address these crimes. On behalf of all the agencies working with survivors of domestic violence, I thank you for shining a light on an issue that even with 36,000 incidents reported to law enforcement each year, remains in many ways a silent epidemic.

 Let’s not waste this momentum that has been built. It is time for us to make sure that positive change occurs, time to take action to make our state’s promise of “smiling faces, beautiful places” a reality for all our families and to show those who have experienced abuse from a loved one that we believe their lives matter.

 

You can read more about this call to action rally here: Post and Courier 

 Posted by on January 16, 2015 Blog, Domestic Violence Tagged with: ,  Comments Off on SCCADVASA Executive Director stands with SC Attorney General
Dec 122014
 

BJUSignWe wanted to share the Final Report done by Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (G.R.A.C.E.) on BJU regarding any and all complaints made to representatives of Bob Jones University or Bob Jones Academy related to sexual abuse.

 

GRACE Final Report

 

Here is what our Executive Director, Sara Barber, initially had to say about the report “We hope that Bob Jones University is able to transform itself from an institution that has lost the trust of members of the community into one that engages in genuine and substantive change. The final report of the GRACE investigation points towards hopeful signs that BJU has started to take the necessary steps to better understand and prevent sexual assault while also providing focused services to survivors.”

 

Stay tuned for SCCADVASA’s officials response to the report.

 

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 Posted by on December 12, 2014 Blog Comments Off on G.R.A.C.E’s Final Report on Bobby Jones University Sexual Abuse Cases
Dec 022014
 

Dear Friends,

 2014 has been a momentous year for SCCADVASA – a year of strengthening our foundation and re/defining who we are as a coalition. In January, the Board of Directors which had always been comprised completely of member program representatives, welcomed community members from across the state into its ranks. The five new community-based board members, Pam Belkevitz, Hope Blakely, Kelli Scurry, Eddie Weinberg and Valerie Williams worked alongside member program representatives Ginny Waller, Becky Callaham, Lynn Hawkins, Kay Mixon and Tracy Bowie and Interim Executive Director Colleen Campbell Bozard to ensure continued forward momentum that honored SCCADVASA’s past while preparing the organization for further transition.

 The Board focused on four primary goals in 2014, including continuing the search for a new Executive Director. Colleen Campbell Bozard worked closely with Ginny Waller and the Executive Transition Committee, which was made up of board members and other community leaders, to recruit and interview candidates. After an exhaustive search, the Committee was pleased to announce the appointment of Sara Barber to the Executive Director position at SCCADVASA’s annual meeting in May.

 Under the leadership of Ginny Waller, Becky Callaham, Sharon Wilkinson and Rebecca Williams-Agee, SCCADVASA’s Legislative Committee grew in leaps and bounds. After many years of being spread too thinly, the committee focused on drawing in individuals and organizations outside of SCCADVASA’s traditional partnerships to help build consensus on legislation. The committee also renewed its commitment to evaluating the various concerns of SCCADVASA’s membership and the community in regards to sexual assault and domestic violence and to measuring its efficacy. In June, H. 3361 a bill to allow for the inclusion of pets in orders of protection that the committee supported was signed into law. The committee is currently focusing its efforts on addressing victim confidentiality and domestic violence homicide reduction. Both Sara Barber and Becky Callaham have provided testimony to the CDV Reform Committee.

 Two ad-hoc committees were formed to address additional goals around increasing awareness of SCCADVASA and membership benefits and responsibilities. The ad-hoc Public Relations Committee, led by Pam Belkavitz, began its work by developing an elevator speech for board members to ensure consistency when discussing the organization. Over the summer, the ad-hoc Membership Committee led by Tracy Bowie and Amanda Wozniak-Woodruff, began the large task of reviewing and revising membership levels and benefits to not only help retain current members, but to also help attract new members.

 I want to thank Lynn Hawkins, Kay Mixon, Ginny Waller, Becky Callaham and Tracy Bowie, all of whom will be transitioning off the board, for their leadership and service this year. When SCCADVASA’s board convenes in January 2015, it will be comprised of ten community members and four member program representatives. Under the leadership of the board and executive director and with the support of its member programs in 2015, SCCADVASA is truly poised to unite allies and unify voices across the state to demand an end to sexual assault and domestic violence.

Sincerely,

Kristin Dubrowski

2014 Board Chair

 Posted by on December 2, 2014 Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault Comments Off on Letter from the Board Chair