Women of Color in the US: Breaking the Cycle of Violence Against Women and Girls

The International Affairs Division of The National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc. hosted a parallel event titled, “Breaking the Cycle of Violence against Women and Girls.” Introductory remarks were made Beverly Nance, the UN Representative of International Affairs, and the moderator of the event was Ms. Patricia B. Maples (Alternate UN Representative).

The first speaker, Dr. Anne R. Elliot, is the founder of Greenhope Services for Women. Greenhope is a residential outpatient program that serves as an alternative to women’s incarceration in the US. Greenhope empowers women involved in substance abuse, and as a result entrapped in the criminal justice system, to reclaim their lives, reunite with their families, and rebuild their communities. Dr. Elliot spoke about abused women and the legal system emphasizing that women’s imprisonment is a growing problem. Dr. Elliot started her presentation asking, “What compels women to crime?” According to Dr. Elliot, 90% of women who commit crimes experience gender-based violence such as sexual abuse, physical assault by a family member, drug addiction and subjected to toxic environments. Many abused women become victims of their toxic environments and as a result of being traumatized from abuse and other violent situations, partake in criminal behaviour, drug addiction, and even murder.

Ms. Laura B. Riso, the second panelist, holds the position of Victim Program Specialist in the USA Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Office for Victim Assistance in the New York Field Office. Ms. Riso coordinates with local, state, and federal law enforcement and non-governmental organizations to provide direct services to federal crime victims in cases investigated by the FBI. She is assigned to the Crimes Against Children Squad where, Ms. Riso explained, human trafficking against children has many forms such as: forced child labor, violent crimes, sexual abuse, and prostitution. The FBI Office for Victim Assistance provides aid for victims of these crimes. The victims are put in touch with agencies which provide assistance such as safe shelter, food, and social services.

The third speaker, Ms. Regina S. Johnson, has counseled for over 25 years victims of domestic violence and abuse. Her goal has been to provide help to those families in need and to empower women. Ms. Johnson reported on the cycle and culture of abuse and violence. She stated that “education in socialization is the door to understanding others.” She noted that “Cultural Norms” is something that’s passed down generation to generation and that these norms sort of dictate how we react and why some women, in particular immigrant women, may isolate themselves from others.
Ms. Johnson highlighted some examples of cultural norms:

-Male(s) dictating/controlling the family,
-Elder control; not respecting and adhering to elders,
-Keeping secrets; not telling anyone what goes on in our life or home,
-emphasizing that no one is to dishonor your family name
-Sticking with your own kind/race
-Lack of education

Second, Ms. Johnson suggests that we need to make friends with women. We must learn to recognize victims of abuse by their actions, such as not making eye contact, being unusually silent, and marks on the body. Some women are being abused and don’t know it’s abuse believing it is normal behavior. Many immigrant women, in particular, face difficulties in a new environment being isolated by not knowing the dominant language and not having family around. They can easily become victims because they lack the information or knowledge of mandated resources that are available.

The fourth and last speaker was Ms. LaVerne Yard Best, a retired as New York City Police Department Detective Specialist. She has over 20 years of experience as a NYC police officer where she was assigned to the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Community Affairs Youth Services. Her main focus within this area has been adolescents and community empowerment.

Ms. Best presented on the prevention of bullying, hazing and toxic relationships saying that the most toxic of bullying can occur from female to female relationships. Every 7 minutes girls are bullied or experience some sort of hazing or gang activity. A survey was conducted among college students and found that 47% of college students experience some sort of hazing. Bullying among girls occurs in more subtle ways: secrecy among other girlfriends, abusive harassment, gossip, humiliating tricks, often associated with initiation into a girls’ sorority.

Other statistics show that 50-57% of women are targets for bullying in the work place. Ms. Best highlighted the situation of the violent female boss vs. subordinate. The female boss feels she must prove herself to male counterparts by putting the vulnerable/weaker person down in order to get ahead for a promotion.

The session was quite valuable in highlighting bullying in the U.S. as a form of gender-based violence. Many women, due to bullying, will fall into toxic relationships—relationships in turn that cause great pain and much sacrifice, often very detrimental to one’s health and well-being.

Reported by Teah “Tauheedah” Muwwakkil, FTF Gender Justice Intern

“Breaking the Cycle of Violence Against Women and Girls”
Thursday, March 7, 2013
UN Church Center, Hardin Room
UN CSW 57, New York, NY

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