Author Archives: kristinamw

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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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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New Study’s Findings Show 9% of Young People as Sexual Violence Perpetrators

JAMA Pediatrics published a new study on Monday, Oct. 7th.  Due to recent research connecting exposure to X-rated or violent material at a young age to sexual violence, this paper sought to further explore the correlation.  Interviews were conducted across the nation to 14-21 year olds.  There were 1,058 youth involved where 53% were 18-21 years old and 47% were 14-17 years old.  The study had some alarming findings:


  • 9% of young people reported to having been a perpetrator of some form of sexual violence
  • 17% of perpetrators had viewed X-rated/violent material in the past year
  • 3% of participants had attempted rape
  • 2% of participants had forced rape
  • When perpetrators were asked the relationship of their most recent victim, one in four victims were not in dating relationships.

Because this is one of the first studies of its kind, Michelle Ybarra, the president of the Center for Innovative Public Health Research, says that we should be cautious to interpret these findings.  The data is especially alarming because the age range included youth that are under the age of consent. 

Above all, Ybarra says that this data shows the need to do more for our youth.  We need better families, better social networks, and better communities to combat these surprising findings. 

How can we better prepare our youth?  What can we do as a community to promote safer sex?

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Posted by on October 9, 2013 in Uncategorized


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A Response to the University of Alabama Greek System

This is a well-known excerpt of a speech you’ve probably heard before:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color their skin but by the content of their character.  I have a dream…I have a dream that one day in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

Does it sound familiar?  Martin Luther King Jr. said these famous words fifty years ago during the “March on Washington”.  Alabama was the birthplace of much of the African American Civil Rights Movement a half-century ago, but today it is also home to a Greek System at the University of Alabama that allegedly discriminates on the basis of race during recruitment.

There are about 30,000 students at University of Alabama, and nearly one in three girls go Greek.  As of 2011, the school was 12.4% Black and 82.5% White.  Despite these demographics, many highly qualified Black girls have been passed up on Bid Day for seemingly unclear reasons.  These incidents have gone relatively unnoticed until recently, when a few active members spoke out against the recruitment decisions being made in their sorority.  One Alpha Gamma Delta active member took notice when her chapter was rejecting a perfect candidate for her sorority:

 “It was just like a big elephant in the room,” Gotz said. “So I raised my hand.”

Gotz took issue with a well-qualified Black candidate being dismissed, but the bulk of the sorority either didn’t notice or didn’t care as alumnae crossed another girl off the list of potential new members based on what seemed to be nothing more than prejudice.  When Gotz started asking questions, the alumnae were quick to justify their dismissal, claiming that the girl did not have proper recommendation letters.

After Gotz spoke up, however, others began to stand behind her.  Several active members began challenging the decisions of the alumnae.  When questioned, the alumnae replied that they were simply following the policies of Alpha Gamma Delta’s National Headquarters.  When the reporter got in touch with National Headquarters, however, their official statement claimed that, “Alpha Gamma Delta has policies that govern its recruitment process. These include policies about the roles undergraduates and alumnae play in the recruitment process. In addition, Alpha Gamma Delta policy prohibits discrimination on the basis of race in all of its activities including recruitment.”  There seems to be some miscommunication.

When I first read the report in the Crimson White, Alabama’s student-run newspaper, my first reaction was annoyance.  Every active member blamed the actions on the alumnae, acting as if their passivity wasn’t part of the problem.   I’m proud of the girls that are questioning what is being done, but it is 2013.  These girls, speaking their opinions and critically thinking about the institution that they themselves are a part of, should not be the exception.  In my opinion, these sorority girls should take a lesson from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Civil disobedience, a tenet of his, says that it is one’s moral obligation to disobey unjust laws.  Sororities aren’t governments, and Greek rules are not laws, but if a girl has to bend the knee to alumni to suit the out-dated, prejudice needs of the alumni, then I think the same thing applies.  Girls, stand up for fellow girls; speak out, question your elders, and if it’s necessary, deactivate your sorority.  There is no reason to tolerate this.


Read the full Crimson White article here:

“Common Data Set 2012-13” (PDF). The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, University of Alabama. Retrieved July 14, 2013.

“Fall 2010 Enrollment at a Glance”. The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, University of Alabama. Retrieved May 29, 2011.

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Posted by on September 16, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Results from the DAVILA (Dating Violence among Latino Adolescents) Study

The Dating Violence among Latino Adolescents (DAVILA) study examined various types of dating violence such as physical, sexual, psychological, and stalking.  The study sought to show the prevalence of dating violence in Latino adolescent relationships and to understand the ways victims seek help, whether formally or informally.  The study also assessed the impact of dating violence victimization on other forms of victimization.

The sample included 1,525 Latino adolescents from across the country.  Nearly one in five said to have experienced a form of dating violence victimization in the past year (19.5%).  The most common form of dating violence was psychological (14.8%).  Boys were six times more likely to experience physical dating violence than girls.  Adolescents that experienced dating violence were most likely to seek help from an informal source (60.7%), while only 15.6% sought out help from a formal source (such as school personnel).  Of the 60.7% of victims that sought help from an informal source, 42.9% sought help specifically from friends.

When the results are broken down by gender, the numbers suggest that it is more common for male adolescents to be victimized, but it is less likely that they will reach out for help.  Only 5.1% of the Latino males sought formal help, while 35.5% of the Latino females did.

The study’s results also show that those adolescents more connected to their Latino roots were less likely to fall victim to dating violence:

For dating violence in general and physical dating violence victimization specifically, Latino orientation was associated with a decreased odds of experiencing victimization, although it is unclear what underlying mechanisms might explain this phenomenon. Perhaps traditional Latino qualities like family cohesiveness might help prevent victimization, whereas acculturation and running contrary to traditional norms might illicit a backlash that manifests itself in the form of violence. A sense of familial support appears to be crucial in seeking formal help and indicates that having a strong family support system may help ease barriers to getting formal help.

The sample was largely second-generation residents (60.2%), meaning that their parents had immigrated to the US before they were born.  This excerpt suggests that strong family supports and a deep connection to one’s heritage could help adolescents avoid violence altogether, or at the very least, seek help when the adolescent encounters violence in dating.

The study’s results echo the call for building strong communities and supporting one another through all levels of dating violence, but it also puts in question standard gender roles.  The study shows how boys experience a substantial amount of physical victimization such as slapping, pushing, having possessions broken, and partners forcing sex onto them.  This shows how gender norms surrounding adolescent dating violence are inaccurate.  If these inaccurate gender roles can be replaced with real knowledge, boys will hopefully seek out help more willingly, whether it be from formal or informal sources.  The study also suggests adolescent programs that are gender-specific and culturally relevant that discuss not only physical violence, but also psychological violence in dating.

Read the full report here:

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Posted by on September 4, 2013 in Uncategorized


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