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March 2014 Program Highlights

WORTH Program
WORTH and Social Change partnered to bring eye glasses into the jail. Toni Dorenda, Director of WORTH, contacted the Sherriff to receive approval to bring glasses to WORTH’s Tuesday classes. Glasses help the participants see the curriculum and read the handouts during WORTH volunteer visits. Have you heard of Orange is the New Black-a new series that’s been stirring up the media? YWCA presents the first of a 2-part series about the show in this month’s newsletter.

Social Change Program
Michelle Hurdle-Bradford, Director of Social Change, sponsored 10 pairs of glasses for the WORTH Program. Hurdle-Bradford visited the jail to teach incarcerated women about personal values, judgment, bullying and white privilege the day the glasses were distributed. “To see the smile on their faces when they could borrow a pair of glasses to see the curriculum was worth more than gold. The participants can not only listen to the training but they can read the handouts too.”

Sexual Assault Program
On February 11th the SA Program attended Lobby Day in Olympia to advocate for survivors of sexual assault. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the SA Program will once again welcome renowned speaker Cory Jewel Jensen on April 1st and will be hosting an Art Show at YWCA on April 21st. Details of these events will be released later this month. Follow us on Facebook or call 360-906-9156 for more information. Finally, the SA Program continues to offer free groups and classes to the public including the Latina Women’s Group, Women’s Healing Group and the Where We Live series which focuses on awareness and prevention.

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Thanks to all the presenters and volunteers who made Women Trauma and Healing Day a success! From left: Auna, Amira and Erica

SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program
SafeChoice is happy to welcome Jennifer Anderson, the new Shelter Manager to the team. Jennifer has several years of supervisory experience with both Child Protective Services and Education Services District 112. In addition, members of the SafeChoice Program attended Lobby Day in Olympia on February 4th and advocated with the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) for the enhancement of protection orders by enforcing firearm prohibition for abusers, maintaining funding for domestic violence shelter and legal advocacy, and maintaining basic safety net programs which support survivors. WSCADV’s legislative agenda can be found through the public policy link on their website. SafeChoice is also implementing a new support group for shelter residents starting in March. Learn more in this month’s newsletter.

Y’s Care Children’s Program
Y’s Care recently offered a 3-week parenting class to guardians of Y’s Care children. The free class included meals and childcare. The Seeds of Empathy program is in its 3rd year and continues to be a great success. This wonderful program centers around a baby and parent who visit regularly, teaches preschoolers perspective on identifying and labeling feelings. Y’s Care loves community engagement and created aparticipatory experience for students by partnering with Tears of Joy Theater based in Portland.

Clark County CASA Program
CASA welcomes 23 new volunteer advocates to their team. With this influx of advocates, CASA is able to serve approximately 69 more children. Also, YWCA and CASA welcome Kelsey LeBrun Keswani as the new Director of CASA. Kelsey has over 13 years of experience working in the field of social services. She has a breadth of experience ranging from building a national program serving unaccompanied refugee minors to volunteering with the Peace Corps in the Ukraine.

Independent Living Skills
Youth in our Independent Living Skills Program visited Olympia on February 14 alongside the Mocking Bird Society to advocate for the rights of foster youth and teens. This year they focused on Extended Foster Care (SB 6101/HB 2335), Prudent parent Standard (SB 6479/ HB 2699) and Legal Representation for Foster Youth (SB 6126/HB 1285)

ILS youth at Olympia

ILS youth at Olympia

Seeing the Gray in “Orange is the New Black”: Praise for the groundbreaking show, while acknowledging the murkiness of portraying life in prison

By: Emily Ostrowski

(Contains some spoilers for Season 1 of Orange is the New Black)

Like many fans of Netflix sensation Orange is the New Black (OitNB), I was thrilled when they announced the show’s second season will be available to stream June 6th, 2014. After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, a return date is in sight for the show that has become something of a cultural phenomenon, and because Netflix allows for every episode of the season to be available at once, it’s essentially redefined the concept of “binge-watching.” In fact, OitNB is the most watched original Netflix show, beating out House of Cards and the re-vamped fourth season of Arrested Development. It’s garnered critical praise, as well as a slew of award nominations, but perhaps more than anything OitNB has been lauded for what many see as its societal impact.

For starters it stars a predominantly female cast, meaning it clearly passes the Bechdel Test (a test named after American cartoonist Alison Bechdel that requires any work of fiction to have at least two female characters interact with one another about something other than a man.) The show has also earned praise for its racial diversity, as well as its inclusion of numerous LGBT characters.  The series’ main love triangle revolves around recently imprisoned main character Piper Chapman (Taylor Shilling), her fiancé on the outside, Larry (Jason Biggs), and her former girlfriend and current fellow inmate, Alex (Laura Prepon). Piper’s feelings for Alex are shown to be every bit as legitimate as hers towards Larry, and while the show could have played their relationship as nothing more than a titillating distraction, throughout the course of  the season Alex and Piper’s relationship became deeply rooted in sustained emotional connection and persevering attraction they feel towards one another. OitNB also prominently features openly transgender actress Laverne Cox, who has used her popularity on the show to become an outspoken advocate for transgender rights.

All that being said, the show’s premise is based around the everyday lives of women in prison. In this particular area I fear I, like many viewers, while good intentioned, don’t know much about prison life aside from what we’ve gleaned from previous media depictions. To learn more, I reached out to Michael Sutcliffe, a PhD student and activist who volunteers with YWCA’s WORTH Program. He shared his thoughts on the show, about what they’re getting right and, and unfortunately quite wrong about life in prison.

michael-sutcliffe

WORTH volunteer Michael Sutcliffe

“There are some things about Orange is the New Black that I was pleased to see.” says Sutcliffe, “The writer and producers do seem to acknowledge the prison as both a manifestation and a producer of systemic racism, and they do try to demonstrate just how powerful the privileges of the main character are.”

Indeed Piper’s privileges are often plain to see in the show, such as the early preferential treatment she receives from her correctional officer, Mr. Healy, because she is a white, upper class, educated, and (he presumes) heterosexual woman. The show also notes how Piper is both uncomfortable with her privilege, while at other times seemingly unaware of it, which I believe is an honest and unflattering reflection of how privilege often works.

Sutcliffe also gives the show some credit for attempting to portray the different power dynamics and social structures of people imprisoned, but as he notes is the case with all TV, “They compress time so much that it seems like every day is a roller coaster of politics, gossip, and social maneuvering.”

There is also an inherent quirkiness to OitNB, that while undoubtedly makes the show more entertaining, also contributes to what Sutcliffe sees as the “quiet dulling of the emotions” in what are the more intense scenes of the show. He elaborates, “What I mean is that while they show the women being scared, angry, frustrated, and try to hint at desperation, they accompany the scenes with goofy or happy music that lightens the mood and makes light of the situations the women are in. There is no theme music in tense moments in (real-life) prison and the silence (as well as the extreme noise) can be a powerful component part of a moment.”  He references the early episodes where Piper was effectively “starved out” by the kitchen staff for unknowingly criticizing the cook’s food in front of her. In real life, this is undoubtedly a serious issue, but in the show, it was largely played for laughs.

This bothers Sutcliffe in no small part because he believes OitNB sells itself as a type of docudrama, but by portraying those scenes the way the show does, it under-emphasizes the fear and legitimate threat of violence real prisoners often face. While I’m not sure if I completely agree that the show markets itself in such a way, I understand where the assertion is coming from. After all, the show is loosely based on the real-life incarceration of Piper Kerman, former inmate turned prison reform advocate, who wrote about her experiences in her memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison. For a casual viewer, knowing that the story is based on certain real-life events may make them susceptible to believing that the show’s portrayal of prison is a fairly accurate one.

All of this I suppose raises the question as to whether it is the show’s responsibility to portray prison life more realistically, or that of the viewer to be able to discern between entertainment and reality? Ultimately, I believe the answer lies, so often as it does, somewhere in the middle.

In an article for the Chicago Tribune former inmates were asked to weigh in on OitNB’s accuracy. Like Sutcliffe, the women had mixed reactions. One woman praised the show for enriching these characters by “having a great sense of humor” and portraying them as “amazingly inventive” in the ways in which they get through the day. She also had this to say:

“If this were a truly realistic portrayal, it would be depressing. It may be the show I want to see. But I’m not confident that a lot of other people would want to see it.”

A television show’s main job after all, is to attract viewers. It’s not the nicest truth, but it’s a truth, nonetheless, and despite OitNB’s flaws, I’m still happy it’s out there, and am not ashamed for finding it compelling.

Yet there was one criticism of Sutcliffe’s that resonated, not just about OitNB, but about the way in which we as a society tend to consume all media:

“I don’t think OitNB really shows people what prison is like. While it definitely has some good acting moments and some entertaining situations, I think OitNB has to be taken with a HUGE grain of salt and we need to ask why/how we can use the ruination of people’s lives as entertainment while doing nothing to help them?”

In this day and age it’s easy to feel like because we watch a certain TV show or post a story on Facebook that we’re actively engaging in political and societal discourse. In reality many of us are failing to take any real steps to change the injustices we claim to care about, and I’m as guilty of this inaction as any.

In an effort to change that, I invite all of you interested in learning more about our criminal justice system to take a look at YWCA’s WORTH Program, as well as the list below where Michael gives us a few of his recommendations for films and documentaries that give a more realistic portrayal of life in prison. Also keep an eye out for our next newsletter, in which Michael and I will have a more in-depth conversation on activism and the failures of our current prison system.

Additional Resources
Check out page 14 of the WORTH training packet for a comprehensive list of resources. Michael especially enjoys Michelle Alexander on Mass Incarceration and The New Jim Crow as well as the NPR interview and review. He also suggests the feature documentaries Visions of Abolition and It’s More Expensive to do Nothing (link unavailable). Finally, Michael recommends this video interview with Dr Carl Hart about drug addiction and a website on Defending Justice.

Imagination is Essential

by Shawna Burkholder

Make believe is an essential part of every childhood.  Using dolls or puppets to tap into the imagination is much more than simple play.  The value in this was realized with the serendipitous partnership of Divine Consign, Tears of Joy Puppet Theater and YWCA’s Y’s Care students.

Y’s Care Children’s Program specializes in early education for preschool children from low income, homeless or living in transitional housing situations.  Y’s Care staff teach children, through modeling and problem solving, how to relate and to express themselves in socially accepted ways.

ToJt-dragon

photo used with permission from Tears of Joy Theater

Most Y’s Care students have limited awareness of the arts.  Through a grant from Divine Consign, Y’s Care staff was able create an engaging participatory experience for all of our students by partnering with Tears of Joy Theater based in Portland.  Their mission is to celebrate the diversity of world cultures, teach children and enrich their lives by helping them experience, create and perform art with professional artists.

As part of their mission, Tears of Joy Theater brought the following values to this project:

  • Providing children with an opportunity to appreciate, participate and make life changes though the arts.
  • Inspiring creativity and understanding through presentations by representing diverse cultures from around the world.
  • Bringing live theater experiences to children and communities with limited access to live performance and arts education.

Y’s Care Program Director Leah Reitz contacted Tears of Joy Theater to participate in their Artist in Residence educational program to create a project that would offer an exceptional art experience for the Y’s Care children.

Y’s Care students took a field trip to a Tears of Joy Theater in Portland to watch a production allowing our students to be exposed to a live theater performance, many of them for the first time. The students and chaperones used public transportation which allowed for further learning opportunities. The field trip was a perfect opportunity for the kids to practice many skills including, problem solving, emotional regulation and impulse control.

The on-site component of the project included rehearsing a short play with the Tears of Joy professional over a two-week period. Rehearsals gave the children confidence and an opportunity to experience the hard work and joy that comes from practicing and performing. The play selected was Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock and the teaching artist led classroom instruction from casting, to puppet construction to performance.

ToJt-kids

photo used with permission from Tears of Joy Theater

During this time, what the children viewed as play, included curriculum that incorporated Language Arts, Social Sciences and Geography, Science, Math, and Theater Arts. The children also learned the basics of an audition and how to deal with the disappointment of not being selected for a role they wanted.

Leah Reitz, Y’s Care Program Director commented, “I felt like this was a great project and what we learned (as teachers) will help us recreate the puppet show again next year.”

This theater project offered an opportunity for children to experience how to work together and to express themselves in a positive manner. Ultimately all of the children’s hard work culminated in a classroom performance for parents followed by lunch. The final production is fondly remembered by the children and parents.

Breaking Free from a Cycle of Violence

by Sharon Svec

Abuse is never straight-forward. Tools like the power and control wheel show that abusers will often use multiple ways to gain power and control in a relationship. Breaking free from an abuser is a huge step, but at YWCA advocates do all they can to ensure that violence is not tolerated or perpetuated in the future. By providing education and solution-oriented support for survivors of domestic violence, YWCA helps break the cycle of violence.

The Strengthening Families, Ending Violence Project is one such support service offered by the SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program of YWCA Clark County. Through this project, advocates and shelter residents work together using an empowerment-driven model that supports the parent/child bond and ends the cycle of violence. The project is multi-faceted and has been funded through multiple sources including United Way of the Columbia-Willamette, the Looking Out Foundation, and Bank of America.

Three main aspects of the project include the children advocacy program, support groups and housing and transportation assistance. The support groups contain three additional components: DV 101 to help participants better understand the dynamics of domestic violence, a personal enhancement section to provide self-care practice, and a financial empowerment section to help residents transition out of the shelter into a financially stable environment.

Support group facilitators Ashmeeta Kumar, David Chapparo and Katheryn Manning will offer weekly sessions. The support groups will follow a cyclical curriculum based on the 60 day stay offered to shelter residents. Ashmeeta will facilitate DV 101, David will lead personal enhancement and Katheryn will address fiscal empowerment. The team leading the groups will consistently be evaluating the success of their efforts, and will make subtle adjustments to the curriculum to ensure residents are getting the most out of participation.

I recently talked with Katheryn to learn more about the fiscal empowerment section of the support groups, “I’m excited. I think that along with financial empowerment comes a lot of freedom. If you have that component, then it opens all kinds of doors for you. Being able to give financial tools that really work is very valuable.”

Utilizing a curriculum prepared by The Allstate Foundation and the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Katheryn will lead the group through the following five modules: Understanding Financial Abuse, Learning Financial Fundamentals, Mastering Credit Basics, Building Financial Foundations and Creating Budgeting Strategies. Participants will have an opportunity to implement concepts and practice new techniques with supporting activities and worksheets. Because every person’s situation is different, Katheryn believes it’s important to provide individualized support whenever possible.

Katheryn notes that at a time of transition, when everything seems up in the air, education and training like this can feel grounding and empowering. “The financial part is huge. Someone may have lost their job because of the DV. They may have had to leave their home; having to start over. It can be very overwhelming. So here you are in the shelter. You need to find shelter and take care of a lot of other things, and you need to do that in 60 days. So the empowerment part of that is to offer the encouragement that it can be done, to instill that sense of the ripple, and to be there to separate all that all out and make it manageable.”

Empowerment has always been a key part of YWCA’s mission, and by offering something more than temporary housing – by offering an entire program which empowers survivors in a variety of ways, SafeChoice embodies the mission of YWCA and models it for survivors. With funding from Bank of America, SafeChoice is able to extend that empowerment outside the doors of the shelter. Not only will survivors gain financial assistance because of grants from United Way, but they will know how to make the best use of that assistance and how to leverage it into financial independence.

Dr. Lee Faver Appointed to YWCA Clark County Board of Directors

YWCA Clark County is pleased to welcome Dr. Lee Faver to the Board of Directors. Lee was sworn in January 22nd, 2014. YWCA’s diverse board currently seats 18 members who are charged with upholding the philosophical and legal obligations of the organization. As policymaker and visionary, board members are held to an ethical standard which recognizes the human dignity of all people and strives for an environment that is healthy and caring.

A licensed, board certified psychologist currently practicing at Orchards Family Medicine, Dr. Faver has a wealth of experience related to YWCA services. Related interests include treating trauma and psychological difficulties associated with family violence and abuse, serving sexual minorities, youth and LGBTQ populations, and providing training for staff answering a domestic violence hotline.

In addition to Dr. Lee Faver, board members include Anne Borus, Rev. Marva Edwards, Sherri Falkner, Angie Friauf, Don Gladson, Dena Horton, Greg Kimsey, Susan LaLone, Pam Loh Veljacic, Emily Oliva, Cathy Ramer, David K. Reiter, Leslie Runyan, Kayla Tiano Kelly Nolen, Kevin Weaver, and Megan Vaughn, who serves as the President. To learn how you can join this team, and uphold a mission to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all, contact April at 360 696 0167.

March 2014 Snapshot

With this issue, we are unveiling a fresh newsletter format! We’ve been paying close attention to what stories attract our readers, and have adapted our content to meet your interests. Regular features of this new layout are: “Program Highlights” which provides updates from each program, “Volunteer News” showcases volunteer-related news, a feature story, additional stories, and the “Snapshot” to provide an overview of YWCA happenings.

The snapshot for March 2014 reveals an issue packed with themes of growth and collaboration. Multiple programs have joined other state organizations to visit Olympia and advocate for our participants. More in depth articles reveal great news about how programs are able to better serve participants directly through innovative new approaches. Also, we’ve reached a little outside our typical reporting style and included an article that reviews the new hit series, “Orange is the New Black.” This two part article reviews the TV series and uses it as a reference for learning more about YWCA’s WORTH Program.

We are thrilled and honored to announce that the 2014 Classic Wines Auction raised over $3.4 million for children and families. The annual Classic Wines Auction contributes a significant amount of proceeds to YWCA, and just celebrated its 30th anniversary on March 1st. The auction is the final celebration in a series of events that occur throughout the year. With support from survivor Veronica Child and community representatives Leslie and Erik Runyan, YWCA made a strong presentation on behalf of our services. Over 60 YWCA volunteers and staff dedicated their time before, during and after the event to ensure a seamless and successful auction. Thank you to everyone involved! The evening exceeded all of our expectations and dreams and reflected the power of collaboration, camaraderie and community.

Drumroll please… we’re excited to announce Sonya Manzano as our annual luncheon speaker. Sonya is better known and loved for her role as Maria on Sesame Street. In celebration of our 20th year, and to reflect the inspiring, empowering and uplifting stories of our programs we we’re re-branding this event as the “Inspire Luncheon.” Keep your eyes open in the spring for more details on this year’s event and save-the-date of Wednesday, September 10th to attend.

Lastly, we want your feedback! Let us know what interests you about YWCA Clark County and tell us how you like the updated newsletter format by e-mailing us at email hidden; visit site for full address. You can also stay informed about YWCA happenings by liking our Facebook page, or following us on Twitter and Pinterest.

Young Women of Achievement Scholarships offered by YWCA Clark County

Applications are now being accepted by YWCA Clark County for the Young Women of Achievement Scholarship awards. Three Clark County high school students will be awarded scholarships in May of 2014. Female students in the 12th grade are encouraged to apply.

The scholarship awards align with YWCA Clark County’s mission to eliminate racism, empowering women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all people. Top candidates will possess an outstanding achievement in volunteering, school leadership roles, community involvement, expresses commitment to YWCA mission and serve as a role model.

Students interested in applying are encouraged to submit an application  by Thursday, February 27th, 2014 by 5:00pm. Incomplete applications will not be accepted. Submit your application by e-mail to email hidden; visit site for full address, by mail to YWCA Cark County, 3606 Main Street Vancouver, WA 98663 or in person from 7:30am- 5:30pm, Monday through Thursday to Erin Smiley at YWCA Clark County.

January Y’s Words

Gratitude. The end of each year is often a time for reflecting on what we have to be grateful for and to lay plans for the year to come. In this month’s newsletter you’ll find inspiring stories regarding our volunteers, community members, and donors and their efforts to support our organization and ultimately our mission.

Upon reflection, YWCA has much to be grateful for. This year, we learned that singer songwriter Belinda Carlisle is a strong activist for ending domestic violence. She created the Looking Out Foundation specifically to assist the work of organizations like YWCA’s SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program and we are grateful for their grant funding.

We’re grateful to the 60+ employees and more than 600 volunteers who work tirelessly to support community members in need – whether that be through direct service, prevention programming, or community awareness. This month, learn about Val Anderson who has graced us with her service to the CASA Program for over 20 years! And, don’t miss an exceptionally informative article on stalking awareness from volunteer Emily Ostrowski.

If you are a current YWCA volunteer, thank you for your service this past year! Don’t forget to visit our volunteer venue–a special section of our newsletter dedicated specifically to Y volunteers. If you’re interested in joining this incredible team, join us for a volunteer open house on February 6th at 6:00pm.

Speaking of involvement, YWCA especially thanks Clark County Commissioners for visiting our facility to see firsthand how Clark County funding is used to support residents in need.

As you look forward to 2014, may you do so with joy, abundance and peace. We are grateful to be a part of this community and supported by so many.

Strong Alone. Fearless Together.

Sherri Bennett
Executive Director

PS – This year marks the 20th anniversary of our benefit luncheon and we are giving it a facelift!  Watch for a name change and a new focus, plus other elements that will appeal to our attendees in our March newsletter. And, remember to save the date of Wednesday, September 10th for the next luncheon!

Meet Val Anderson

By: Emily Ostrowski

One of the things we here at YWCA Clark County always love to do is acknowledge the incredible work and dedication of our employees and volunteers. Val Anderson is someone who is absolutely deserving of such acknowledgement. She has been with YWCA for 21 years and currently serves as the administrative specialist for our CASA Program. Val previously served as a clerk-stenographer as well as an office manager for a federal government agency in downtown Portland. After the birth of her daughter, she took several years off work before deciding to look into getting a part-time job. She found an ad in the newspaper for an office assistant for the CASA Program and hasn’t looked back since.

Val takes a great deal of pride in her work, and knows the importance of the CASA program. She understands that the work staff and advocates of CASA do is unique and necessary to improve the lives of so many children in the community.

CASA Program Communication & Training Specialist Heidi Hiatt has worked with Val for several years, and can speak firsthand to her work ethic and passion. “Val is an amazing person. I had the pleasure of sharing an office with her for about a year. While “living together” I was able to witness directly how passionate she is about serving our program, the advocates and the children and families we work with.”

A large part of Val’s job is reading through countless abuse and neglect cases, a task which can be disheartening, but she makes sure to find ways to cope with the stress whether it be talking with a co-worker, taking a walk, or going across the street to Safeway for a maple bar! Val also has an excellent sense of humor. “Val and I are fairly close to the same age and we both find we have the same complaints about growing older; but we can laugh about it all so hard that we have tears running down our cheeks,” says co-worker Kathy Shirilla , “I love her sense of humor!”

Beyond her sense of humor, Kathy also recognizes Val’s dedication to her work. “She always works hard and puts in all that extra effort needed to complete the job giving full attention to detail. She respects everyone and is always there to help.”

Without a doubt, Val recognizes that the work done by CASA is a group effort, and has nothing but encouragement for any potential CASA volunteers, “You DO make a difference. You make it better, even when you think the “system” is slow or sometimes even broken. All you do adds up for the child.”

However, CASA wouldn’t be the same today without the work of Val Anderson, says Hiatt, “She is really the backbone of our program, and I don’t think she realizes how valuable she is to the advocates and staff she works with.”

HH-VA-KS

Stalking is a Crime

By: Emily Ostrowski

Roughly 6.6 million Americans are stalked every year with an estimation of 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men being victimized by stalking at some point in their lives. The vast majority of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know, frequently a current or past romantic partner, with 66% of female victims and 41% of male victims indicating their stalker was someone they had a past or present intimate relationship with.

January is National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM). Started by the National Center for Victims of Crime in 2004, NSAM was created “to increase the public’s understanding of the crime of stalking.”

It began in 2003 in response to murdered stalking victim, Peggy Klinke. Klinke’s sister, Debbie Riddle, was motivated by the tragedy to improve the way law enforcement handled and responded to stalking. She contacted the Stalking Resource Center to see what she can do, and from there was able to get her sister’s story out to everyone she could. That July, having been moved by Klinke’s story, Representative Heather Wilson (R-NM) introduced a Congressional resolution to support National Stalking Awareness Month. The following January, the first observance of National Stalking Awareness Month was held, with the National Center for Victims of Crime helping to plan events to raise awareness throughout the country.

Currently, there are laws against stalking in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, however not all states and jurisdictions define “stalking” in the same manner, nor is the crime prosecuted the same. The National Center for Victims of Crime suggest that a good working definition of stalking is “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.” This conduct can include but is not limited to, following a person, frequently emailing, texting or calling, sending unwanted gifts, and stealing personal possessions.

To some, stalking might seem like a less serious offense when compared to any sort of physical assault, but not only do victims of stalking experience intense fear and uncertainty that lead to increased levels of anxiety and depression, but stalking can often times be a precursor to physical violence. According to the Stalking Resource Center, weapons are used to harm or threaten victims in 1 out of every 5 cases of stalking. Even scarier, 76% of all women killed by an intimate partner were stalked by that partner before their murder, and 54% had reported the stalking to the police before they were killed.

Young people may be at a particularly high risk. A report by the US Department of Justice in 2009 indicated that people aged 18-24 experience the highest rate of stalking. Teens are especially susceptible to cyber-stalking (harassment via computers, cellphones etc.) often because of their heavy presence on social media, which makes it easier for stalkers to obtain personal information about their victim, as well as give them more options for making contact.

One of the most important things we can do to help stalking victims and prevent stalking from continuing is to be informed. To find out what you can do to protect yourselves and the ones you love, check out this important list of tips and resources from the Stalking Resource Center.

Our personal opinion is that the ywca is an organization that helps people on a grassroots level. The ywca fills a need that isn’t being met elsewhere. It just makes sense to me that the ywca should be a recipient for what we have to give.
Kathi Wiley Gladson
— Kathi Wiley Gladson