Archive | March 2012

House Republicans Passed the Ryan Budget Plan FY2013: A Nation Divided

House Republicans Passed the Ryan Budget Plan FY2013. The House Budget Committee Chairman, US Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., entitled his FY2013 budget plan “The Path to Prosperity”.  The Ryan Budget Plan for FY2013 has faced strong opposition by House Democrats  and others. Many opponents assert that the Ryan budget irresponsibly seeks to balance the federal budget on the backs of the poor and other vulnerable citizens.  Opponents to the Ryan budget assert that, we, as a nation, must find a balanced approach to the federal budget that will serve to protect investments in our nation’s greatest resource its people.

On Thursday of this week, the Republican-led US House of Representatives passed the Ryan Budget Plan FY2013 by a partisan vote of 228 to 191. Ten Republicans voted against the bill, and no Democrats voted for it. The Ryan Budget Plan and the resulting vote in the House highlight the deep divisions in the vision for this nation.

Opponents to the Ryan Budget Plan call it anything but a road map to financial health for this nation. One such opponent to the Ryan Budget Plan is Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)[i].  Van Hollen is the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. Since the passage of the Ryan budget by the House, Van Hollen and others have been writing and speaking about the devastating implications of the Ryan Budget.

When discussing his budget plan, U.S. Rep. Ryan promised that it would free America “from the crushing burden of debt now threatening its future.” Opponents to the Ryan Budget Plan assert that it would do no such thing. To the contrary, the Tax Policy Center says that “… major tax cuts included in the Ryan budget would reduce federal revenue by $418 billion in 2015 alone; by 2019, revenue losses would exceed half a trillion dollars each and every year. That will make the deficit worse, not better…”

US Rep. Van Hollen asserts that the Ryan Budget Plan is a $3.5 trillion budget bill that has no chance of becoming law but that draws a clear line in the sand between Republican and Democratic goals for our nation.  Van Hollen and other opponents have stated that instead of working with President Obama on a balanced approach, House Republicans passed a radical budget that seeks to: not only maintain but expand the Bush tax cuts; end the Medicare guarantee; Medicaid budget would be cut by $810 billion. Two-thirds of Medicaid spending covers seniors and people with disabilities; reduce the number of Pell Grant awards; and allow interest rates on loans to double in July. If House Budget Committee Chairman, US Rep. Paul Ryan,  has his way with his proposed budget resolution, Medicare will be privatized and Medicaid, food stamps, and countless other federal entitlement programs will be eliminated. The cuts under Ryan’s budget proposal, if implemented, would drastically increase income inequality and poverty.

While the Ryan budget reduced health, education, welfare, and transportation spending, the defense department budget was increased. Although, the Defense Department recommended a decrease in defense spending, its budget recommendation went unheard by House Budget Committee Chairman, US Rep. Paul Ryan.  In response to the divided opinion on the defense department budget line, Ryan responded that, “the Generals aren’t giving us their “true advice”…” Meanwhile, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy aren’t just extended, they’re vastly expanded. Billionaires and corporations that ship jobs overseas would receive millions while seniors are forced to pay more for their health care.

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art.


[i] “Van Hollen was elected to Congress in 2002 in a high-profile election that received national attention. He quickly earned a reputation as an active, engaged, and effective member of Congress, rising to become one of the youngest members of the Democratic leadership in 2008. In addition to representing the Eighth District of Maryland and serving in House leadership, Congressman Van Hollen was elected by his colleagues in 2010 to serve as the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. In this position, he is working to advance policies that support job creation and economic growth, reduce the deficit, and put America on a path to long-term fiscal sustainability.”

“The Washington Post named Chris Van Hollen one of “10 members to watch in the 112th Congress.” Roll Call has noted that “Van Hollen gets near-universal respect from his colleagues for his intellectual firepower and combination of policy and political chops.””

“Congressman Van Hollen is a tireless advocate for Maryland in Congress, and his leadership has helped to obtain funding for a wide range of critical investments in our community, including infrastructure, biotechnology and education; public transportation in the Washington National Capital area; and anti-gang initiatives. Congressman Van Hollen was recognized by Washingtonian Magazine as the ‘Best Metro Area Member of Congress’ in 2010 and as the ‘Best Local Elected Official’ by Bethesda Magazine in 2008.”

“Throughout his career, Congressman Van Hollen has been a champion of education, energy, the environment, health care, and civil rights. He is a leader on cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, and fought successfully to obtain a historic boost in federal funds for the Bay as part of the Farm Bill and to secure provisions in the Recovery Act that provided loan guarantees for renewable energy projects. He also played an integral role in the effort to pass comprehensive health care reform and fought to ensure that young adults receive expanded access to health insurance. He has been a staunch advocate for critical government reforms. He led the fight to pass far-reaching lobbying disclosure reform and has been a key supporter of whistleblower protections. A former professional staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Congressman Van Hollen has a strong background in national security policy. He lived and studied abroad in South Asia and has remained active in issues related to U.S. foreign policy in that region and around the world.”

“Congressman Van Hollen has received numerous leadership awards for his legislative activities, including the Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s “Climate Champion of the Year” award for his contribution to clean-energy policies; the “Community Health Superhero Award” from the National Association of Community Health Centers for his efforts on behalf of the uninsured and medically underserved Americans; the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce’s “Legislator of the Year” award; Progressive Maryland’s “Champion of Working Families” award; the Maryland Executive Council for Educational Opportunities’ “Excellence in Educational Advocacy” award; and the Multiple Sclerosis Society’s “Representative of the Year” award.”

“Before his election to the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Van Hollen served 4 years in the Maryland House of Delegates and 8 years in the Maryland Senate. His legislative record in Annapolis earned him the praise of The Washington Post, which called him “one of the most effective members of the Maryland legislature.” He is a graduate of Swarthmore College, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and Georgetown University Law Center. He lives in Kensington, Maryland with his wife, Katherine, and their three children, Anna, Nicholas, and Alexander.”

Source: US Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s Congressional website. US Rep.Van Hollen Action Alert. Van Hollen Congressional website. “Why Paul Ryan’s budget would explode the deficit”, Jay Bookman, Atlanta Journal Constitution, March 30, 2012. “House passes GOP budget with no Dem support” Stephanie Condon, CBSNews.com., March 29, 2012. http://www.examiner.com. Washington Post. Wall Street Journal. http://www.MSNBC.com. “Republican budget: Ryan Plan would hurt seniors”, Daily Koos, Joan McCarter, March 30, 2012, http://www.dailykos.com

House Republicans Reject Violence Against Women Act

The House Republicans Reject Violence Against Women Act. In response, this evening, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (DNY) posed the question, “How could anyone oppose the Violence Against Women Act?” This landmark legislation provides support to domestic abuse survivors and gives prosecutors the resources to convict violent abusers — but Republicans refused to renew it on the House floor today.

As the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reminds us that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a cost-effective, time-tested, constitutionally sound compendium of laws that guarantees equal protection to all victims seeking help under its auspices. Victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking look to Congress to keep this critical program going.

“VAWA, which is up for reauthorization, has changed the way our society views domestic and sexual violence. Once a “private family matter,” domestic violence is now recognized in every state and territory as a crime of violence against an intimate partner. VAWA has also encouraged states to adopt new and more effective strategies to respond to dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Thanks to Congress’ efforts in drafting and passing VAWA, approximately $430 million is distributed to the states, tribes, and territories every year to fund the training and work of courts, prosecutors, police officers, and victim service providers. Each state and territory receives a proportionate share of the formula grant funding, allowing them to develop best practices and resources to address the needs of victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking in their jurisdictions.”[i] This legislation has been very instrumental in providing the necessary funding to support efforts to eradicate domestic violence. With that, in the words of Congresswoman Maloney, How could anyone oppose the Violence Against Women Act?

Sources: Action Alert Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. NCADV.

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

[i] National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)

 

Say No To The Ryan Budget Plan FY2013

The Ryan budget plan severely and disproportionately cuts programs for hungry and poor people. Poverty in America not only affects the millions of people who are deprived of the common necessities to live, but it also affects the idea of progression and hopefulness in this country. The more than 46 million people in America living in squalor, poverty, and hunger are not invisible. Their concerns must be our concerns.

If passed, the Ryan budget plan would strike is a very serious blow to vulnerable children and families far into the future. Millions of children are in danger of budget cuts to vital health and income supports. House budget chair Paul Ryan, in his budget plan would rather the money go to defense spending and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Much of the $4.1 trillion in proposed cuts in the Ryan Budget Plan comes from vital programs, while much of the savings goes to $4.3 trillion in new tax cuts. The members of the house supporting the Ryan budget plan are opting to balance our federal deficit on the backs of the most vulnerable. This proposal fails to create a circle of protection around programs vital for hungry and poor people in our country and abroad.

The Ryan Budget Plan gouges the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) by billions, and turns it into a block grant, which would prevent SNAP from responding to economic downturns.  Additionally, the proposed budget cuts the funding levels negotiated by Congress last August, and it eliminates the protections established for all major low-income entitlement programs. It also slashes other crucial programs, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, WIC, and Head Start. International food aid and poverty-focused foreign assistance would also be deeply cut. Cuts to this vital funding would endanger lives and our own national security.

The Ryan plan cuts Medicaid funding by 20 percent next year, gutting a popular program that helps more than 28 million needy children receive care. And Medicaid is slashed by one-third over 10 years. By defunding the Affordable Care Act (health reform), millions more could also lose out on the chance for coverage. Education is hard hit, too, with billions slashed to services kids need to compete in the future. Pell Grants, which help students afford college, would face a budget freeze, and the interest some pay for student loans could double.

As an advocate for indigent children, youth, and families, I see the impact of poverty and need on those that we serve every day. I know first-hand, what poverty and dependence look like and how they destroy lives, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. We pray and cry with children who are hungry and parents who have lost hope. It is what we are, it is what we do.

In spite of the seemingly limitless prosperity that many Americans enjoy, millions of others are going hungry, foregoing medical care, doing without winter coats and gloves, struggling to break free from poverty. Last year, 46.2 million Americans lived below the poverty line – $22,314 a year for a family of four – marking the fourth year in a row that poverty has increased.

With 46.2 million residents, Poverty, USA, is the largest state in America. Today, the unemployment rate stands at 8.6 percent and despite recent economic growth more than 43 million Americans -including 14.7 million children – live in poverty, the highest in the more than 50 years that the data has been tracked. Yet a recent Gallup poll found that only 5% of Americans believe poverty and homelessness are important problems for the country. So let’s look at some facts and make our own determination:

Over 25 percent of the children in the US under the age of six live in poverty. The poverty rate among women climbed to 14.5 percent in 2010 from 13.9 percent in 2009, the highest in 17 years. As poverty surged last year to its highest level since 1993, median household income declined, leaving the typical American household earning less in inflation-adjusted dollars than it did in 1997. One out of every six Americans is now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program.  Child homelessness in the United States is now 33 percent higher than it was back in 2007. More than 50 million Americans are now on Medicaid, the U.S. government health care program designed principally to help the poor.

According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, 1.6 million American children “were living on the street, in homeless shelters or motels, or doubled up with other families last year”.  The percentage of children living in poverty in the United States increased from 16.9 percent in 2006 to nearly 22 percent in 2010. One out of every seven mortgages in the United States was either delinquent or in foreclosure during the first quarter of 2010.

The number of children living in poverty in the U.S. has risen for four years in a row. There are 10 different U.S. states where at least one out of every four babies is born to a family living in poverty.  28 percent of all U.S. households have at least one member that is looking for a full-time job. There are seven million children in the United States today that are not covered by health insurance at all.

Hundreds of advocates for families in crisis have called Congress about the proposed fiscal year 2013 budget being debated by the House of Representatives. We have analyzed the budget, and the news is bad for people who are struggling: The proposed budget cuts the highly effective Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by 17 percent over the next 10 years. This will put millions more American families at risk of hunger. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reports that the cuts are so severe that most of the government—aside from health care, Social Security, and defense—would cease to exist by 2050.

The budget severely and disproportionately cuts programs for hungry and poor people. Much of the $4.1 trillion in proposed cuts comes from these vital programs, while much of the savings goes to $4.3 trillion in new tax cuts.

The next 24 hours are crucial as the House of Representatives plans to vote on this budget tomorrow, March 29. Please call your representative now. Use our toll-free number, 1-800-826-3688. If the line is busy, please redial and call again. Please let your elected officials in Washington know that you care about children and families.

We can only make a difference when we take action.

“You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result. ~ Gandhi

Source(s): Action Alert Voices for Americas Children. Action Alert Bred For the World. St. Vincent de Paul Society. National Center on Family Homelessness

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Equal Protection Under The Law….Trayvon Martin Death?

The tragic shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an African-American youth, has been covered heavily in the media[i] and online[ii] and brings into question whether or not there is equal protection under the law for African-Americans.  As Trayvon parent’s aptly stated, their “…son didn’t deserve to die.” Trayvon Martin was just 17 years old when he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. Trayvon wasn’t doing anything besides walking home with a bag of Skittles and some iced tea in his hands…”  Being a young black man in a hoodie made him “suspicious” to George Zimmerman, who got out of his SUV, tracked Trayvon down, confronted him, and fatally wounded Travyvon.1 Zimmerman couldn’t see past Trayvon’s race and hoodie to the promising young man he was—a football player, a horseback rider, a hero who pulled his father from a burning kitchen.2 Trayvon was young, he was alive, he was beautiful.

The victim did not have a history of violent behavior or an arrest record. Zimmerman, on the other hand, has a history of violent behavior and an arrest record. Was it rational for the police to conclude that an unarmed 17 year old youth would attack a 28 year old man that was armed with a gun and out weighed him by 100 pounds?

The story of Trayvon Martin’s senseless shooting death and the police response has garnered both national and international attention and has resulted in protests across the country. Martin’s death February 26, 2012 at the hands of a volunteer Neighborhood Watch leader, George Zimmerman, in a small, gated Florida community has rippled through many corners of the nation’s justice and political system and raised questions about the relationship between the black community and police in small towns.

Zimmerman, 28, pulled the trigger on the unarmed Martin as he walked home from a convenience store. The police officers engaged in the investigation of the death of Trayvon Martin assert that Zimmerman was not charged because of a Florida law, Stand Your Ground, that makes it difficult to arrest and prosecute homicide suspects who claim self-defense. Given the facts of this case, the police department’s conduct has caused some to question whether or not there is equal protection under the law for African-American’s in the state of Florida. There have been similar cases in the state of Florida where the victim of a violent crime was African-American and the perpetrator was white and there were little or no sanctions imposed by the “justice system” for the commission of a serious crime.

Because of the petition posted on Change.org by Trayvon’s parents and the interviews that were granted to media outlets, the conduct of the officers on this case has and continues to have a high level of scrutiny. There are a great many questions about the police handling of this case including but not limited to: (1) Why did the police check the victim’s blood for drugs and alcohol and failed to so for the shooter? (2) Did the police seize the shooter’s weapon?; (3) Has the weapon been tested for finger prints; and (4) Did the police interview any of witnesses that heard the cries for help? The online petition requests that the “general public” engage in the requisite actions[iii] to help ensure that justice would prevail.

Trayvon’s parents’ cry for justice has been heard around the world; and it has served to ignite protests, across the United States including but not limited to: a “Million Hoodie March” in New York City and a rally in Sanford, Florida, the location where the shooting took place. The rally in Sanford was led by, civil rights activist, Al Sharpton. Further, Trayvon’s parents have amassed more than 600,000 signatures on their online petition calling for charges to be filed against the shooter. As protests spread across the nation in response to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, President Obama weighed in on the controversy Friday, saying it’s imperative that authorities investigate every aspect of the case.

“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” President Obama said. “I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and that we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”

At the protests related to this death, many protesters have donned hoodies in support of Trayvon Martin. On the day he was fatally shot, the Florida teen was spotted wearing a hoodie by his killer, George Zimmerman. The article of clothing reportedly made Martin appear suspicious to Zimmerman. Assuming for the sake of argument, Trayvon appeared suspicious to Zimmerman. The question remains, why did Zimmerman exceed his authority as a volunteer Neighborhood Watch member. The Neighbor Watch handbook simply encourages its members to simply report the “suspicious” person(s) and/or crime to the police. Despite the Neighborhood Watch manual’s clear instruction on what is to be its members’ response to “suspicious” person(s)  and the statement by the 911 to Zimmerman that the police were coming and he needn’t pursue the person, Zimmerman pursued, confronted, shot, and ultimately killed an unarmed person.

Geraldo Rivera has asserted that the victim’s hoodie could have precipitated the shooting and death of Trayvon Martin. How can a hoodie be responsible for the death of Trayvon? Many protests have asserted that George Zimmerman’s pursuit and fatal shooting of Trayvon was not the result of the victim’s attire but rather a racist act which should be prosecuted to fullest extent of the law. The case has resonated for many who assert that Martin died because of stereotypes of young black men as violent criminals. Trayvon’s death is already being compared with high-profile and historic civil rights cases. Currently, an edited photograph has circulated throughout many social media sites that compare Martin to Emmett Till, a young man lynched by white men in 1950s Mississippi.

How should we look at this tragic death? Was it simply the act of self-defense?  Was the shooting an act of racism by Zimmerman? Professor Mark Neal, a professor of African and African American Studies at Duke University, was asked to comment on the conduct by Zimmerman and the resulting tragic death of Trayvon Martin. Professor Neal stated that, “It’s not about these individual acts of racism. It’s about the way that black males are framed in the larger culture … as being violent, criminal and threats to safety and property.”

Public outrage has helped to bring national attention and a federal investigation to the case of Trayvon Martin. Travyon’s parents have asked that the public continue to build pressure to demand George Zimmerman be brought to justice.

Here’s what you can do to obtain justice for Trayvon Martin:

1. Sign the petition here: http://www.change.org/petitions/prosecute-the-killer-of-our-son-17-year-old-trayvon-martin

2. Plan or attend a solidarity rally in your city. There are actions springing up all over the country as people continue to voice outrage over the murder of Trayvon. You can find a list of actions here: http://www.facebook.com/notes/justice-for-trayvon-martin/updated-upcoming-events-across-the-us-3212012/350015705040795.

3. Pass around articles about Trayvon and the petition on social networking sites and e-mail lists.

4. “Like” the Justice for Trayvon Martin Facebook page to stay updated about this case.

Trayvon’s story is already inspiring millions in the call for justice and an end to racial violence. It also moved writer/activist Kevin Powell, Akila Worksongs, Jasiri X and the folks at MoveOn and ColorOfChange to record a new powerful video “A Song for Trayvon.” Please watch it and share it with your family and friends to inspire more people to join this growing movement: http://moveon.org/SongForTrayvon?id=38007-18765278-XWgISwx&t=2

Source(s): www.change.org. www.cedp.org. www.nytimes.org. What Happened to Trayvon Martin, Explained, Politico Mojo, David Corn, Kevin Drums, and The News Team, March 23, 2012. President Obama Addresses Trayvon Martin Shooting, Amy Powell, March 22, 2012. The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, National Public Radio, and The Today Show. Trayvon Martin: Zimmerman was not following Neighborhood Watch ‘rules,'” Chicago Tribune, March 24, 2012, http://www.moveon.org/r?r=273396&id=38007-18765278-XWgISwx&t=6 .  “Calls for justice rage on a month after Trayvon Martin’s killing,” CNN, March 26, 2012, http://www.moveon.org/r?r=273406&id=38007-18765278-XWgISwx&t=7. “Obama: Shooting death of Trayvon Martin a ‘tragedy,'” Newsday, March23, 2012, http://www.moveon.org/r?r=273398&id=38007-18765278-XWgISwx&t=8 . “Obama: Shooting death of Trayvon Martin a ‘tragedy,'” Newsday, March23, 2012, http://www.moveon.org/r?r=273398&id=38007-18765278-XWgISwx&t=9. “Trayvon Martin’s Family Calls For Arrest Of Man Who Police Say Confessed To Shooting (UPDATE),” The Huffington Post, March 8, 2012, http://www.moveon.org/r?r=273399&id=38007-18765278-XWgISwx&t=10.

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art


[i] Just to name a few, The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, National Public Radio, and The Today Show have all covered the death of Trayvon Martin which occurred in February of 2012.

[ii] Mother Jones, Politico, Care.org

[iii] Public activism has played a pivotal role in bringing national attention to the case and ultimately leading to a top-to-bottom review of what happened that day. A wellspring of social media grew by the day and became relentless, demanding that the spotlight return to Sanford. It’s the only way to galvanize people in such cases, says Neal, the Duke professor.

“If folks aren’t on Twitter tweeting stories and giving particular testimonies; if you don’t have artists doing videos on YouTube talking about what Trayvon might have experienced … I don’t think we get a moment where suddenly the Justice Department is saying we need to investigate this case,” Neal says.

A Safe Haven?

Not all homes provide a safe haven. For far too many persons violence and danger are their constant companions. Data indicates that domestic violence continues to pose a clear and present danger to the health and well-being of countless persons.  Yet, domestic violence is a subject that we, as a society, are reluctant to talk about. As a result, victims often suffer and sometimes die in silence. It is important to know: what constitutes domestic violence, how you can help, and available resources.

What constitutes abuse? Domestic violence is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors, including but not limited to physical, sexual, and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion, that people use to gain power and control over their intimate partners. Research indicates that domestic violence is common and affects people of all cultures, religions, ages, sexual orientations, educational backgrounds and income levels. Domestic violence is not a private family matter as was once thought but rather a crime against society.  Abuse takes many forms.

Abuse comes in several forms and, while some define abuse as a physical attack, it can also be emotional, financial, or sexual. Physically abusive behavior can escalate quickly and have lethal consequences. Emotional abuse is considered a psychological or mental attack on another, including name-calling, destructive criticism, harassment, isolation, intimidation, or humiliation. These emotionally destructive behaviors by the abusive partner can be detrimental to the victim’s mental well-being both in the short-term as well as long-term without counseling. Emotionally abusive relationships can destroy the victim’s self-worth, lead to anxiety and depression, and make the victim feel helpless and alone. No one should have to endure this kind of pain—and the first step to breaking free is recognizing that the relationship is abusive.

Are there other forms of domestic violence? Other forms of domestic violence include but are not limited to financial and sexual abuse. Financial abuse, also known as economic abuse, results from one partner’s attempts to gain and maintain control over their partner’s finances. Taking many forms, financial abuse includes disallowing a partner from obtaining a job, purposely hurting a partner’s credit, limiting access to funds, and demanding that a partner ask for money for every expense. Sexual abuse results from one partner forcing his or her will on the other, often causing physical and psychological harm in the process. When a partner is afraid to say no, he or she suffers from abuse. Once the victim acknowledges the reality of the abusive situation, then she or he can get the much-needed help.

Is this an exhaustive list of the forms of domestic violence? Although lengthy, the aforementioned categories of domestic violence do not comprise all forms abuse. Stalking is another form of emotional abuse.  With the rise of technology, many abuse their partner by stalking them with the aid of cell phones, computers, and the Internet, or using technology to monitor a partner’s activity. Research indicates that this type of abuse is especially common among teenagers and young adults. The immigration status of the victim can also afford the abusive partner an opportunity to control the victim. When the abusive partner, often a spouse, holds control over the victim’s immigration papers, threatens to call immigration authorities, or refuses to let his or her partner to learn English, among other things this behavior constitutes abuse. More than ever before, society must guard against domestic abuse in all forms, paying special attention to non-traditional forms of abusive behavior which all too often go overlooked.

How can you help? There are several ways that you can help a person in an abusive relationship. First, you must be a patient and non-judgmental listener. Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. Secondly, you can encourage him or her to talk to people who can provide help and guidance. Assist your friend in locating a local domestic violence agency that provides counseling and/or shelter. If the person elects to go to the police, court or a lawyer, you can offer to accompany them for moral support. It is important to be mindful that you cannot rescue the person being abused. Although it is difficult to see someone you care about being hurt only the abused person can decide when to take the requisite steps to secure a life free from the violence and turmoil which occurs in an abusive relationship.

The pervasive problem of domestic violence takes everyone to make it stop. If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, keep in mind that expressing your concern for their health and well-being will let the person know that you care and may even save her or his life.

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

An Abusive Relationship

When discussing the topic of romantic relationships, people often inquire about the characteristics of an abusive relationship. It is important not only to know the characteristics of an abusive relationship but it is equally important to know what constitutes a healthy relationship. A health relationship has been defined as one where it functions to increase self esteem of both participants in the relationship. An abusive relationship is one in which the victim’s sense of self is diminished. Let’s look closer at the characteristics of both types of relationships.

Healthy Relationships

–  Partnership:                     There is shared responsibility.

–  Economic equality:           Freedom exists related to issues of work, school, and money.

–   Emotional Honesty:        Both parties feel safe to share fears and insecurities.

–   Sexual Respect:               Accepts that no means no.

–  Physical Safety:                Respects partner’s space and discusses issues without violence.

–  Supportive/Trusting:      Listens and understands, values partner’s opinion, and sensitive to other’s needs.

Abusive Relationships

–          Domination:                             Abuser decides. Servant-Master relationship.

–          Economic Control:                   Withholds money.

–          Emotional Manipulation:         Uses jealousy, passion, and stress to justify actions.

–          Sexual Abuse:                          Treats partners as sex object.

–          Physical Abuse:                        Hit, choke, kick, punch, pull hair, twist arms, trip, bite.

–          Controlling:                               Isolates partner from friends.

–          Intimidating:                            Charming in public but menacing in private.

The behaviors listed above are not comprehensive. The information should simply serve as a brief overview and to encourage the reader to seek more information. For further information on the topic of domestic violence, there are many websites that can provide comprehensive information including but not limited to: http://www.thehotline.org; www.ncadv.org; and www.pcadv.org.

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

A Tragic End to Two Young Lives: Tyler Clementi and Dharun Ravi

Prior to the Rutgers University freshman’s suicide in the fall of 2010, relatively few people knew Tyler Clementi before the student jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge, but the wake from that sad and desperate act is now felt around the world.

According to prosecutors, no one is certain why Tyler Clementi took his life in September of 2010 but his suicide occurred after his roommate, Dharun Ravi, used a webcam to watch Tyler have a sexual encounter with another man in their dorm room. It is reported that Tyler’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, set up a webcam and watched with a friend, Molly Wei, in her dormitory room. Clementi appears to have found out about the webcast and had filed a complaint with the resident assistant. After the webcam matter was discovered by the authorities, both Ravi and Wei were charged with invasion of privacy.

Today, Dharun Ravi was found guilty of all fifteen (15) charges against him, including invasion of privacy and anti-gay intimidation. The jury decided that he not only spied on Tyler Clementi and another man as they were kissing but also singled out Clementi because he was gay.  Ravi, 20, former Rutgers University student, could get up to ten (10) years in prison by some estimates and could be deported to his native India even though he has lived legally in the U.S. since he was a child. Months ago, Ravi and his lawyers rejected a plea bargain that would have spared him from prison, and prosecutors would have even helped him avoid deportation. In rejecting the prosecutors’ plea deal, Ravi gambled big and lost.

Many assert that intolerance is growing at the same rate cyberspace has given us the ability to invade the lives of others. Tyler Clementi’s suicide highlighted the need for more stringent anti-bullying law. After Tyler’s tragic death, many advocates assert that New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie signed a bill that is the toughest anti-bullying law in the country. Some argue that, New Jersey’s law is vastly different and much better than anti-bullying laws that exist elsewhere across the country.

New Jersey’s “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” is intended to eliminate loopholes in the state’s first anti-bullying law, enacted in 2002, that encouraged school districts to set up programs to combat bullying but did not mandate it. The new law requires training for most public school teachers, administrators and other employees on how to spot bullying and mandate that all districts form a “school safety team” to review complaints. School districts will be graded by the state on their efforts to combat the problem.

Administrators who do not investigate reported incidents of bullying would be disciplined, while students who bully could be suspended or expelled. School employees would also be required to report all incidents they learn of, whether they took place in or outside of school. The effective implementation of this law should serve to provide children and youth with a sense of safety and freedom from being intimidated or harassed.

For further information on bullying, there are several websites you can visit including but not limited to: http://www.fightcrime.org; http://www.bullypolice.org; http://www.healthline.com; http://www.cyberbullying.us; http://www.stopbullying.org; http://www.isafe.org ; and others.

Source(s): “College student guilty in webcam suicide case”, Geoff Mulvihill, Duluth New Tribune, Friday, March 16, 2012. §2 – C.18A:37-13.1 §1 – C.18A:37-13.2 §16 – C.18A:37-15.3 §§17; http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2010/Bills/AL10/122_.PDF. Fight Crime.org; Bully Police USA, Inc.; Healthline.com; Politics Daily; MyFoxPhilly.com; NJ.com; Cyber Research Center; Stop Bullying, Inc.; and i-Safe, Inc.

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