The Taskforce is Seeking A Dedicated Volunteer

The Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls and Young Women is seeking a dedicated volunteer who can devote 8 to 15 hours a week to help us with our mission. Hours are flexible and will be set by the volunteer. Additionally, the volunteer can work from home or anywhere else.

We are looking for a volunteer who has an interest and experience addressing gender issues. We are looking for someone who has an anti-oppressive lens and can work with a diverse population. Our ideal volunteer has excellent communication skills (especially written).

The volunteer will have the following communications and administrative responsibilities:

1. Regularly check our email account and respond to inquiries.
2. Manage our listserve.
3. Maintain our blog (by writing posts and sharing relevant information)
4. Offer administrative support to the ‘Black Girls Under Fire’ initiative

If interested in this opportunity, please send a cover letter and resume to — Attention: Mariame Kaba

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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in Uncategorized


Healing Notes: Songs about Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault

Sometimes we can hear our own story told in lyrics. It can offer a sense of being understood, of not being alone in the world. Music often provides solace, allows us to reflect and sometimes to heal. Some have suggested that listening to music can be a form of therapy. It can provide a way to gain helpful insights to deal with problems we face. In honor of teen dating violence awareness month and the campaign to Free Marissa Alexander, we offer the following selection of songs about the realities of abuse and about overcoming violence.

1. Behind the Wall by Tracy Chapman

2. Birmingham by Amanda Marshall

3. Black Eyes Blue Tears by Shania Twain

4. Change by Patty Griffin

5. Don’t Ever Touch Me (again) by Dionne Farris (1994)

6. Fixing Her Hair by Ani Difranco (1992)

7. Good Enough by Sarah Mclachlan (1994)

8. His Hands by Janis Ian (1993)

9. How Come How Long by Babyface with Stevie Wonder (1996)

10. I Feel So Different by Sinead O’Connor (1991)

11. I Would Be Stronger Than That (1992) by Maura O’Connell (couldn’t find her version so sharing Faith Hill’s version of the song)

12. Island by Heather Nova (1999)

13. I’ve Got to Go Now by Toni Childs (1991)

14. Me and A Gun by Tori Amos (1992)

15. She Can’t Feel Anything Anymore by Paula Cole (1994)

16. Still by Macy Gray (1999)

17. Two Beds & A Coffee Machine (1999)

18. Valentine’s Day is Over by Billy Bragg (1988)

19. Voices Carry by Til Tuesday (1987)

20. Independence Day by Martina McBride (1993)

21. Foolish by Ashanti (2002)

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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Uncategorized


This Valentine’s Day, Let’s reflect.

This Valentine’s Day, “love” is all around us.  Companies everywhere are trying to sell us the idea that love can be purchased, or at least enhanced, thanks to their red, fragrant, chocolaty merchandise.  Advertisers cling to traditional gender roles as they convince us to play our part.  Let us be wary of these traditions, while actively pursuing a life of love and leaving behind a world of violence.

Love is the most precious, sacred, and worthwhile thing in the world.  Though it can be complicated and manifested in a myriad of ways, at its core, love is something that should benefit.  It should benefit a pair by providing support and stability to one another.  It should benefit a community by working toward an inclusive, just, and empathetic lifestyle.  And it should benefit oneself by encouraging self-expression and allowing one to love others.  

Unfortunately, some take advantage of the word’s weight.  They use it to take advantage and manipulate others.  In the worst of these cases, the word attempts to justify all the bad that the relationship encompasses, such as domestic abuse instances.  Other times, people misuse the word by making false claims about what is and what isn’t love between two people.  By making these distinctions, the person is living an exclusive and unloving lifestyle. Love is a powerful word, but if it isn’t supported by actions, then it is worthless.

On this Valentine’s Day, let us be reflective.  Take a look inward at your habits, your strengths, and your flaws.   Look at your relationships with others and your role in the community.  Ask yourself if your relationships are healthy and whether they are assisting you in living out a life of love.  Consider your gender and how that has affected your role in today’s holiday.  Reflect on whether your Valentine’s Day plans fall victim to traditional gender roles and whether this perpetuates narrowly-defined conceptions of love.

No matter the gender, age, nationality, and race, love is love.  There isn’t enough love in the world to include any frivolous parameters.  Strive to live a life of love to conquer violence and prejudice.

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public” –Dr. Cornell West

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Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Uncategorized


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2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,700 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Posted by on December 31, 2013 in Uncategorized


Young Mothers on Assistance

Recently, a young mother from North Lawndale said something that has since had a profound impact on me.  “Moms stay home with their kids all over, and it’s seen as a good thing.  Not us, if we’re home with our kids, then we’re lazy.”  The African American woman had two children, no partner in the picture, and worked part-time.   Her two boys were in preschool and kindergarten.  She’s worked hard to provide for them and yet, she has a point: she is constantly stigmatized for staying home with her children.  Wherein lies the double standard?  

From an early childhood development standpoint, having an engaged and loving mother or father home with a child for the early years of his life is the best possible scenario.  It’s in these early years that babies are learning to understand the world around them and when they form healthy attachments to their caregivers.  As the esteemed child psychiatrist, Dr. Bruce Perry says:

During the first three years of life, the human brain develops to 90 percent of adult size and puts in place the majority of systems and structures that will be responsible for all future emotional, behavioral, social, and physiological functioning during the rest of life. There are critical periods during which bonding experiences must be present for the brain systems responsible for attachment to develop normally.

Basically, in the first three years, a child learns to trust that her caregiver will provide her with everything she needs including: nourishment, a soothing touch, and a clean diaper.  Without a healthy relationship with one’s caregiver, a baby can grow up into a less stable and more developmentally delayed adolescent and adult.

Nowadays, however, fewer mothers and fathers are staying home with their young children, generally due to both partners working.  This is not a problem as long as the family has a backup plan; nannies, preschool, and daycare are a few options.  Yet, these options are expensive and sometimes out of the question for poorer families.  In fact, according to a US Census Bureau report on childcare arrangements, families living in poverty spend 30 percent of their income on childcare.  Thus, the already poor and disadvantaged parent instead drops the children off at the grandma’s, the neighbor’s, or the uncle’s house.  It’s often not educational, developmentally appropriate, nor socially engaging, resulting in a much less school-ready child.

Let’s say that Jane Doe works as a security guard for a hospital.  She makes a decent wage, but suddenly with a baby on the way, she realizes that her company does not offer paid maternity leave.  In fact, she doesn’t even qualify for unpaid maternity leave since she hasn’t worked 1250 hours in the past twelve months.  She’s suddenly jobless with a costly little bundle on the way, one that’s costlier without insurance, which she doesn’t have.

Once she has the baby, she goes out to find a new job to pay off the hospital bills while she leaves her infant child with Grandma.   Jane gets hired as a third shift security guard making good money.  She tries to receive child care assistance but since her night work hours don’t overlap with the childcare hours, she is ineligible.  Now she’s taking care of the baby during the day with little sleep, and thus, little patience.  As if the rest isn’t enough, her body isn’t producing enough breast milk, probably due to the stress, thus tacking on another expense: formula.  Slowly but surely, Jane Doe slips into welfare to improve the life of her baby with the hopes that she’ll get a leg up on her expenses in the future.

Jane Doe is clearly fictional, but these experiences are all too real.  I’ve heard from too many parents who have tried, I mean really tried to make things work, but eventually they gave up.  They begin to receive assistance and instead of working to overcome that assistance, they fall into the narrow, welfare-eligible limbo.  It’s a place where a person is eligible to receive benefits, but where they aren’t encouraged to make any more money for the fear that their benefits will be taken away.  Add to the fact that many childcare centers are low-quality, and many preschool centers are “half-day” (2.5 hours), it is no surprise that these single-household families choose to stay at home with their children instead.    

How can we change these policies to assist those in need?  How can we empower families to work beyond government assistance?  How can we improve child care facilities and make it more affordable for the masses?  And how can we change the stigma attached to young African American women who stay home with their children?  

Our representatives need to educate themselves and have more deliberate conversations around these topics.  Cutting food stamps is not the result of a deliberate or educated conversation.  The problem with this policy is that it’s not going to stop people from needing food; it’s simply going to create more hungry children and families.  Let’s instead work to lessen the demand for assistance by creating independent families.  This can be done by not only offering financial/food assistance, but also by offering job-readiness training, meal-planning, family-planning, and budgeting courses.  It’s quite the opposite of cutting food stamps; instead, it’s putting a lot more money and focus into the welfare program.  But I think over time, we would achieve what government assistance is really meant to establish: independence and initiative.


“You cannot build character and courage by taking away people’s initiative and independence.”  

-Abraham Lincoln


Laughlin, Linda. Who’s Minding The Kids? Childcare Arrangements: Spring 2011. Publication. United States Census Bureau, Apr. 2013. Web. Dec. 2013. <>.

 “Managing Your Maternity Leave.” What Are My Maternity Leave Rights. Familyeducation, n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2013. <>.

Mustich, Emma. “Child Care Costs: ‘Who’s Minding The Kids?’ Report From Census Bureau Shows Rise Since 1985.” The Huffington Post., 05 Apr. 2013. Web. 16 Dec. 2013. <>.

 Perry, Bruce. “Bonding and Attachment in Maltreated Children: Consequences of Emotional Neglect in Childhood.” Bonding and Attachment in Maltreated Children: Consequences of Emotional Neglect in Childhood. Scholastic, n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2013. <>.




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Posted by on December 18, 2013 in Uncategorized


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New Study Points to Orthopedic Fracture Clinics to Screen for IPV

A recent multinational study released in August of this year interviewed 3,000 women about their experience with domestic abuse.  The participants were interviewed while visiting orthopedic fracture clinics in the US, Canada, Netherlands, Denmark, and India.  Here are the study’s findings:

  • 1 in 6 women who visit an orthopedic fracture clinic had been a victim of domestic violence in the past year. 
  • 1 in 3 women interviewed confessed that they had been abused in their lifetime. 
  • 1 in 50 female visitors was specifically visiting the clinic to address fractures caused by domestic abuse. 
  • Two out of Three women said that orthopedic doctors were in a good place to screen for Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).
  • 14% of women who visited the orthopedic fracture clinics to treat an injury from domestic abuse had been asked about IPV from health care professionals in the past.

This study points to an opportunity for intervention.  Doctors, specifically orthopedic doctors, should be screening patients for domestic abuse.  At the very least, doctors should be trained in domestic abuse related injuries, since IPV is the leading cause of non-fatal injury to women worldwide.


Read the study in full here:

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Posted by on November 15, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Changing Policy to Better Address Sexual Assault in the Military

Women make up nearly 15% of the active military.  They make up almost 20% of the Reserves and just over 15% of the National Guard.  They’re educated, patriotic, and training alongside men.  Looking at the growing statistics of women in the military, one might conclude that the misogyny often affiliated with warfare is dwindling.  Yet, the reality is that one in three military women has been sexually assaulted.  Fortunately, things are being done to intervene.  In recent years, the media has covered an increasing amount of military sexual assault cases, informing the public about the atrocities happening overseas which our own soldiers often commit.  Additionally, in 2013, there has been a big push from legislatures to change policy around military court.  Still, little has actually been changed to better serve our victimized soldiers.  Hopefully, a new study showing the amount of tax dollars wasted due to sexual assault in the military will help Americans push for new policy.

The study, released by the Pentagon, extrapolated data based on surveys administered to active-duty men and women.  Only 0.2% of service members made formal reports of sexual assault, but since many service members are dissuaded from making formal reports due to the current policy around addressing these charges, this is understood to be a gross underestimate.  It is important to note that because the military is 85% male, men are victims more often than women, however, proportionally, women are mistreated at a more common rate.  Based on the Pentagon’s extrapolations, 26,000 military personnel were sexually assaulted in 2012 resulting in a record high cost of $3.6 billion dollars worth of medical expenses, medical leaves, legal fees, among other costs.

Let that sink in a little: $3.6 billion dollars.  Maybe that is just a tiny fraction of the gargantuan military budget, but it’s actually significantly less than the FBI counter-terrorism sector’s 2012 budget.  It’s also more money than the entire military paid for military family homes in 2010.    My point is this: Money may not be able to show the damage or the hurt these soldiers incurred during their service, but it does show the extent of this problem and its place on our priority totem pole.  $3.6 billion dollars is a great deal of money that we are essentially wasting because US soldiers are raping fellow US soldiers (not to mention the military budget). 

Policy needs to change first.  Article 32 has garnered a lot of attention recently from legislatures, urging the president to modify the procedure for sexual assault victims.  The ‘hot topic’ article is the process by which the military decides if a case should be passed on to a court martial or not.  It is a hearing at which the victim is cross-examined in an unorthodox manner, often being asked inappropriate questions.  Nancy Parish, president of the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders, speaks to the origin of Article 32 hearings:

“[They] were originally created to function as a probable cause hearing, but have essentially become an opportunity for the defense to try the case twice,” Parish said. “Article 32 hearings are not supposed to be trials or even mini-trials, but for sexual assault cases they often end up that way.”

To put it simply, many of these victims have to face the courts twice; the first occasion taking place in front of their peers for little to no resolution.  In a court-like session where inquiries about bra size, oral sex, and past sexual encounters are considered within the limits, is it really any wonder that many men and women do not step forward to press charges against their higher-ups?  Thankfully, female politicians like Senator Gilibrand (R-N.Y.) and Senator Patty Murracy (D-Wash.) are introducing bills to empower victims.  Gilibrand’s bill would give military prosecutors, rather than commanding officers, the discretion to prosecute sexual offenders.  Murray’s bill would give victims a military lawyer to assist in the confusing process and would also have the Department of Defense maintain better reports of sexual assault charges. These bills aren’t revolutionary; in fact, they’re small policy changes that seem too minute to make any real, lasting impression.  However, I have hope that by starting with small, seemingly insignificant policy shifts, we will progress to the military we deserve.

In a traditionally male subculture such as the military, how do we include women?  The reality is that women will continue to join the military.  As a military-centric country, we should feel proud to have them.  No person should question her service enrollment out of fear of rape; and yet, the numbers show that the fear is rooted in reality.  When policy changes to encourage victims to step forward, we may finally be able to fully capture the number afflicted by sexual assault in the military.  Only then, can we work to affect the culture of the military to better reflect the social progress this country has made.  

Avila, Alexander. “Military Sexual Assault: Combat Isn’t the Most Dangerous Place For Female Soldiers – Here’s What Is.” PolicyMic. Mic Network Inc., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2013. <;.
Farris, Coreen, Terri Schell, and Terry Tanielian. “Enemy Within: Military Sexual Assault Inflicts Physical, Psychological, and Financial Pain.” RAND Corporation. RAND Corporation, 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2013. <;.
Fox, Lauren. “Military Sexual Assault Survivors Applaud Congress For Numerous New Bills.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 17 May 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2013. <;.
Ruiz, Rebecca. “Legislators Ask President To Reform Military Law For Sex Assault Victims.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 25 Sept. 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2013. <;.
United States of America. Office of Management and Budget. The White House. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2013. <;.
“Women in the Military Statistics.” Statistic Brain RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2013. <;.
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Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Uncategorized


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