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White House Advisor on Violence Against Women Appointed

160x120_lynn_rosenthalLynn Rosenthal was recently chosen as White House Advisor on Violence Against Women by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Rosenthal has been a champion in the movement against domestic and sexual violence for three decades and played a key advocacy role in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. She currently serves as the Executive Director for the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence and and is a previous Executive Director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence and of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Rosenthal will advise President Obama and Biden, and work with government agencies including Justice, State, and Health to ensure that violence against women is addressed and the perpetrators are held accountable. Biden has said that creating the advisor position will allow the White House to revive its focus on domestic violence issues.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Domestic Violence Training in Hospitals

The following entry is written by Maria Phelps.  Maria is a survivor and blogger. She uses her website http://4survivors.blogspot.com/  to share her personal experience with DV, address current DV issues and advocate for victims’ rights. Maria was kind enough to give us permission to reprint her latest entry and share it with you all.

Two years ago I was brought into St. Lukes Hospital in Orange County NY for a severely injured left leg. I was carried in on a stretcher by EMTs, followed by my abuser. I was given a room and got immediate attention by the staff, and the team of medical personnel did a wonderful job in stabilizing me and taking care of my injured body. With my abuser at my side, I was asked questions by the staff members, questions like “how did this happen?”. My husband answered for me, naturally, he wanted to hide the abuse and conceal the truth. I was afraid, in shock, and immobile, and I lied that night in the ER. For a few moments, I was taken out of my small hospital room and was wheeled off to get X-rays. I was alone, finally. Nurses tried to make conversation with me and asked what had happened, and I told them “my husband did this to me”. The conversation was over at that point, and everyone became uncomfortable. I got my X-rays not too long after the conversation and found that I had three breaks in my left leg, and I needed surgery. I went home with my abuser that night.

Today was court. Today I was prepared for a trial for my order of protection in Rockland County NY, under Judge Christopher. While preparing for my trial, I realized that the way a scene of a domestic violence crime is handled by law enforcement and medical personnel is critical for the victim. In my case, I was never once separated from my abuser the day of the injury, not when the police arrived, and not when I got into the ER. This changed everything. I was too afraid to tell the truth about what had happened to me to the officers when the injury took place, and I was too afraid to tell my Dr. what happened to me at the hospital because my abuser was hovering over me the whole time. My abuser was at my side the entire night, helping the police file a false police report, his version, and telling the Dr. that my injury was a result of “playing around/wrestling”. Looking back on this situation, both at my home with the police and at the hospital, I’ve realized that had the hospital staff been trained in recognizing the signs of DV, my case against my abuser would have been stronger today. It is critical to have accurate accounts of what happened at the scene of any violent crime, especially DV crimes, because too often, battered women are too afraid to report abuse to the police. In my case, even though I sustained severe injuries, there are no reports stating that the injuries stemmed from abuse. Thankfully, I did file an amended police report about the abuse at a later date, but I was lucky.

Although the scene of my domestic violence incident was not handled properly, I was still prepared for court today. I was prepared to tell my story of brutal violence, and I was prepared to tell the whole truth, nothing but the truth. I was prepared to explain why I couldn’t tell the police the real story that day, and I was prepared to explain why I couldn’t tell my Dr. the real story either. The truth is, I was never left alone with any member of law enforcement and I was never left alone with my Dr. long enough to tell the truth that night. When I arrived at court, I was ready to give my testimony and I was ready and eager to hear my husband’s testimony. But, I never got to testify because my abuser consented to the permanent restraining order and I was able to walk out of court today with my order of protection (1 year OP).

Although I was able to get my order of protection, I am still disturbed about something. Today I phoned St. Lukes Hospital in Newburgh NY and asked to speak with someone in the hospital that would know about staff member domestic violence training. I am certain that there are hospitals in Ulster County, Rockland County, and Westchester County that have local shelters train hospital staff members about recognizing the signs of violence. But after I asked the question, no one knew of any “DV training” in the hospital, and I wasn’t surprised considering I was a victim of violence and no one saw the signs two years ago when I was brought in on a stretcher. So, I left a message with the Education Department and I emailed my question directly to the hospital. I am waiting for a reply, but this is an issue I want to address. It is critical for victims of domestic violence to have at least one accurate record about the abuse on the day of the injury. These documents are critical for the courts and hospitals should be trained to recognize the signs of abuse and they should be following a protocol, possibly making a confidential DV file for the patient, and giving victims safety plans.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Hope, Help, Heartfelt Thanks

The following entry is written by Regan Martin, survivor and subject of a blog post we featured a few weeks ago dealing with GPS tracking written by her mother Cherry Simpson. This is a follow up to that story and reveals new developments in her case.

Hope, Help, Heartfelt Thanks

I am a survivor of spousal rape and abuse. Lost, alone and repeatedly victimized and dehumanized by the system is how my I felt for the three years I have struggled through the system. I have received help from shelters, advocates, and even gotten media attention but it has been extremely hard on me, I lost my home, I have spent over $22,000 on attorney fees, relocation fees, and countless hours in court. It seemed hopeless and without end. I hated the thought of how my children and I could live like this any longer.

Then in November 2008 Rachel Sandal Morse became my friend, advocate and pro bono [Latin, For the public good] attorney she helped the prosecution in the goal of holding the offender accountable and me and my children, from any future harm. My mother had written a letter asking for help from the Cindy Bischof Foundation. Harvard Law Professor Diane Rosenfeld contacted an ex-student with the firm of Jenner and Block in Chicago, IL.

Rachel first acted on my behalf as my attorney during the criminal prosecution of the 3rd (13 counts) and 4th (3 counts) violation’s of OP. Rachel made the court more bearable; she made me comfortable and spoke for me better than anyone ever had. Words can’t describe how she changed everything. She was my communicator, my navigator, my rescuer, and gave me hope when I thought I had none. She was so gracious and knowledgeable. She made everyone want to do a better job. She helped mend the huge gaping hole of misunderstanding and uncaring felt between the system and the victim. She turned it all around so smoothly, so kindly. She helped my children and me more than anyone else ever has.

Don’t give up hope, my abuser is in prison now and I have some sense of peace until his release on 1/2/2011. I am continuing to fight and I have an active order of protection even though he is in prison. He has stalked me since 2006. I have asked a federal prosecutor to do a Federal Stalking Threshold Analysis.

Don’t be afraid to ask for legal help with your domestic violence case. There are people out there willing to serve and help others. I thank God for them.

Recently my mother wrote about the use of the GPS on my abuser and how it helped to save our lives. Because she shared my story a representative from Justice for Children came forward and offered to help me with the visitation family court problems still looming over us.

I will do all I can to keep my children and myself safe. Don’t be afraid to share your story. Asking for help is good. Helping others helps you.