Friday, November 30, 2012

Non-Muslim woman dons hijab and is called a Terrorist

This is similar to NOW Board member Laurie's experience where she unintentionally looked Muslim and was subject to racism.

Some food for thought: 

"I went to the mall, and a little girl called me a terrorist. 

My name is Ela. I am seventeen years old. I am not Muslim, but my friend told m
e about her friend being discriminated against for wearing a hijab. So I decided to see the discrimination firsthand to get a better understanding of what Muslim women go through.

My friend and I pinned scarves around our heads, and then we went to the mall. Normally, vendors try to get us to buy things and ask us to sample a snack. Clerks usually ask us if we need help, tell us about sales, and smile at us. Not today. People, including vendors, clerks, and other shoppers, wouldn't look at us. They didn't talk to us. They acted like we didn't exist. They didn't want to be caught staring at us, so they didn't look at all.

And then, in one store, a girl (who looked about four years old) asked her mom if my friend and I were terrorists. She wasn't trying to be mean or anything. I don't even think she could have grasped the idea of prejudice. However, her mother's response is one I can never forgive or forget. The mother hushed her child, glared at me, and then took her daughter by the hand and led her out of the store.

All that because I put a scarf on my head. Just like that, a mother taught her little girl that being Muslim was evil. It didn't matter that I was a nice person. All that mattered was that I looked different. That little girl may grow up and teach her children the same thing.

This experiment gave me a huge wake-up call. It lasted for only a few hours, so I can't even begin to imagine how much prejudice Muslim girls go through every day. It reminded me of something that many people know but rarely remember: the women in hijabs are people, just like all those women out there who aren't Muslim."

Scholarships to Conference: Medicare and Social Security in a Time of Budget Austerity

The National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) is pleased to offer the opportunity for students and young professionals to attend our 25th Annual Policy Research Conference, Medicare and Social Security in a Time of Budget Austerity, taking place January 31-February 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. NASI will select up to six conference scholars, who will each receive a complimentary conference registration, roundtrip transportation to Washington, DC, and lodging for up to two evenings. More details about the conference and the terms of the award are outlined on NASI's conference webpage. Please share this announcement with anyone who may be interested in this opportunity.

About the Conference
NASI's 25thAnnual Policy Research Conference, Medicare and Social Security in a Time of Budget Austerity, will be an interdisciplinary gathering of several hundred policy analysts and researchers, congressional staff, labor union representatives, advocates, industry leaders, federal employees and other individuals working in the field of social insurance. Conference Scholars will hear the latest developments in the social insurance field from a range of policy, research, advocacy, and business leaders.View the agenda online to learn more about conference sessions and keynotes.


  • Young professionals in the first five years of their career, or students 18 years or older are eligible to apply.
  • Policy debates about the future of social insurance benefit from diverse perspectives that are representative of the country's varied demographics. For that reason, NASI encourages applicants from diverse backgrounds—including but not limited to individuals who represent different groups as defined by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, ability/disability, and geographic location—to apply.
  • NASI members and associate members are not eligible to apply. In general, preference will be given to applicants who have yet to attend a NASI event or conference.

Applications are due by 5:00 pm, Wednesday, December 12, 2012.

Visit the conference scholarship page on NASI's website for more information and an application form.

Questions? Contact Jennifer Clark at (202) 452-8097 or by e-mail at

**P.S. Don't forget: The early bird deadline to register for the NASI conference is November 30. After forwarding this email to students and young professionals you think would be interested, register for the conference online today.**

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Violence Against Women Act Programs Face Uncertain Future - Please Take Action

VAWA Programs Face Uncertain Future - Please Take Action

Tell your representatives...
take action

After taking action,
please support our work!

November 28, 2012

Action Needed:
Congress still has not reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act. If Congress fails to pass VAWA in this "lame duck" session, we will have to start all over again with the new Congress in January. Even more concerning is the possibility of sequestration, or the Budget Control Act's ability to slash funds across the federal budget, including funds set aside for survivors. If Congress fails to pass a new budget, sequestration will result in nearly 200,000 fewer victims receiving lifesaving and cost-effective services. There is very little time left for this Congress to take action on VAWA.

Please call your House member, and tell her/him that it is critical that the Senate version (S. 1925) of the Violence Against Women Act be passed before the 112th Congress adjourns and that funding for VAWA programs should not be cut in the negotiations over the so-called "fiscal cliff." House Speaker John Boehner needs to schedule a floor vote as soon as possible. Please send your message NOW.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) must be reauthorized by this Congress. An inclusive, bipartisan bill (S. 1925) passed in the Senate earlier this year (68-31) contained important improvements that strengthen protections for a number of vulnerable populations, like battered immigrant women, Native American women, LGBT persons and violence survivors on college campuses. A very different House bill (H.R. 4970) was passed that actually reduces services and protections for undocumented immigrants and LGBT individuals. Prior to the November elections, progress on VAWA reauthorization was stymied. As an interim measure to keep VAWA and other federal programs funded at least through March 2013, a continuing resolution was passed. But the time has come to get this bill passed.

We need House members to pressure Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to schedule a vote on the Senate-passed bill. Some House members may think that they have voted for VAWA reauthorization, but you should let them know that the House version was a sham VAWA. In fact, 23 Republicans voted against H.R. 4970, which leaves out protections for anyone who isn't considered a "real" victim. House members cannot possibly be proud of a bill that would ignore improvements for victims of dating and sexual violence at colleges and universities; roll back protections for vulnerable groups, including communities of color; toss out strengthened housing protections for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking; ignore important provisions to improve services and accountability in programs; and leave out prevention initiatives.

We cannot let Congress ignore our call to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act before the end of this year. And we cannot allow negotiations over the so-called "fiscal cliff" to result in cutting VAWA programs -- these programs are already under-funded and do not provide sufficient resources to meet the need. According to a one-day census conducted by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, nearly10,000 requests for help are likely turned away each day for lack of shelter space and staff resources.

Check out or for more information.

U.S. House of Representative office phone numbers:

Write to your Congress member NOW.

You can also tweet:

» @[your legislator]: What steps are you taking to make sure the real #VAWA is reauthorized in lame duck session? #nowvawa

» @[your legislator]: Make the real #VAWA a lame duck priority – reauthorize it now! #nowvawa

take action and then donate

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Didn't we just win an election? Tell your elected officials not to extend tax cuts for the rich

Can you call your members of Congress? Tell them:

"Don't back any fiscal deal unless it lets the Bush tax cuts for the top 2% expire on December 31 and doesn't cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits."  

Senator Charles Schumer
Phone: (202) 224-6542

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Phone: (202) 224-4451

Representative Carolyn Maloney
Phone: (202) 225-7944

Report Your Call!

It's almost hard to believe after such a lopsided defeat in the election, but Republicans in Congress are pushing for a "fiscal deal" that would extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich and slash Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits before the end of the year—and they might win.

They've fabricated a story that, somehow, our economy will fall apart if they don't get what they want. It's not true, but negotiations are underway and a "deal" could come together at any time.

This is a crucial moment—before a deal emerges—when we need our leaders to stand strong. Can you call your members of Congress and tell them:

"Don't back any fiscal deal unless it lets the Bush tax cuts for the top 2% expire, as scheduled, on December 31 and doesn't cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits."

Here's where to call:

Senator Charles Schumer
Phone: (202) 224-6542

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Phone: (202) 224-4451

Representative Carolyn Maloney
Phone: (202) 225-7944

Then, please report your call by clicking here:

Today, in addition to all our calls, tens of thousands of MoveOn members are dropping off letters at the local offices of every member of Congress. Every call helps amplify the message—and we need to make Congress understand that we won't stand for a bad fiscal deal.

The truth is that nothing drastic will happen to our economy on January 1. The House can simply vote to extend tax cuts to 98% of Americans—as the Senate has already done. It's that easy. The only reason there's even a debate over cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits right now is that Republicans know they'll lose all their leverage if the Bush tax cuts expire as scheduled.

The whole election was about whether the rich should pay their fair share or whether to give them more tax breaks and cut into our safety net—and WE won.

Can you call your members of Congress right now and tell them to stand up for the will of the American people?

Here are the numbers again:

Senator Charles Schumer
Phone: (202) 224-6542

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Phone: (202) 224-4451

Representative Carolyn Maloney
Phone: (202) 225-7944

Then, please report your call by clicking here:

Thanks for all you do.

–Ilya, Robin, Mark, Victoria, and the rest of the team

P.S. New districts and newly-elected members of Congress don't go into effect until January, so the information above is still current.

Want to support our work? We're entirely funded by our 7 million members—no corporate contributions, no big checks from CEOs. And our tiny staff ensures that small contributions go a long way. Chip in here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Feminist Theater Review: Emotional Creature

At the NOW conference in June, playwright Eve Ensler delivered the keynote speech. She was a riveting speaker whose passionate words truly rallied me to action. As a result, I’ve been hoping to see one of her plays ever since. Luckily, her newest show Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World is now playing Off-Broadway, and I was able to get tickets!

The sheer awesomeness of Emotional Creature truly floored me. Walking out of the theater, I was at a loss for words and just kept repeating, “That was brilliant. That was brilliant. That was brilliant.” The play certainly was absolutely brilliant, and extremely well-made. It featured six extremely talented women actors, all of whom played different characters in various scenes. They delivered a powerful message about the state of girls today, from upper-middle class Midwestern America to the exploitative factories of China. Although Emotional Creature dealt with some very serious topics, humor was sprinkled throughout the show, creating some comic relief and an interesting contrast.

The fact that the show had true multiculturalism really appealed to me. Of the six cast members, two were African-American, one was Asian-American, one was Middle Eastern, and two were white. The subject matter dealt with issues from almost every continent, from female genital mutilation in Africa to being accepted by the popular crowd in North America. Although Emotional Creature really celebrated diversity, my mother picked up on the fact that all the actors were all relatively thin. The heaviest actor was only around a size eight. Considering the show had a whole scene dedicated to body image and eating disorders, it’s surprising that all of the actors that were cast had a similar, thin build.

Another thing I really liked was how Emotional Creature equated Western girls’ problems with international issues. When I heard Ensler’s speech at the NOW conference about her work helping African survivors of violence rebuild their lives, I felt almost guilty for being so concerned about issues like equal pay and the glass ceiling. Like, how can I be worried about women entering the Senate when there are women out there who are subjected to horrendous violence on a daily basis? The contrast is so stark. So, I really appreciated that Emotional Creature spent just as much time on the social pressures Western girls feel to live up to their parents’ expectations as it did on sex trafficking in Eastern Europe. While sex trafficking is clearly a lot worse than feeling obligated to be perfect for your parents, everything is relative to those going through it.

Although Emotional Creature is an hour and a half long, it felt like a few minutes had gone by when the lights went down. Both my mother and I wished there was a second act, since the first part was so fascinating and informative. The play was truly an inside look on the secret life of girls, exploring the emotions girls feel and the unique situations that only girls live through.

In addition to writing plays, Eve Ensler is a feminist activist who created V-Girls, a youth-driven movement dedicated to empower girls around the world inspired by Emotional Creature. I know that I was rallied to action by seeing the show, and I hope that I wrote a good enough review to make you want to get off the Internet and improve women’s lives, too! For ideas on how to take action, check out the V-Girlswebsite. Ensler also created V-Day and its One Billion Rising campaign. One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten, and that is absolutely unacceptable. To protest this senseless violence, women and those who love them will rise on February 14, 2013, moving the earth and activating individuals across the world. One billion women violated is one billion too much. How can we stand idly by? It is our duty to demand an end to this. If we don’t, who will?

Emotional Creature will be playing at the Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at the Pershing Square Signature Center through January 13. Get your tickets as soon as you can!

Call out Cuomo not to cave in to the GOP

New Yorkers voted for change this fall, and Democrats won upset victories and a historic majority in the State Senate. 

But a group of rogue Democrats is discussing an alliance with Republicans in the State Senate that would squash the progressive agenda and keep Republicans in control.

And Gov. Cuomo? He's saying he "won't get involved." 

Join us in calling on Gov. Cuomo to stand up for a Democratic Senate Majority that can pass the progressive agenda we voted for.

Please click here to email Governor Cuomo right away.

And scroll to the bottom for details about a series of upcoming rallies throughout the state.

The Governor says he stands for progressive values. He claims to support public financing of elections, raising the minimum wage, gun control and protecting women's health.

But Republicans in the State Senate have bottled up our issues for years, or even decades! 

So now, when rogue Democrats are ready to join the Republicans and throw our progressive values under the bus, why is Governor Cuomo is willing to stand by and let it happen? 

This is no time to stay out of the fray – if Gov. Cuomo truly shares our values, he's got to fight for them. 

Click here to tell Governor Andrew Cuomo to speak up for a Democratic Senate majority in Albany.




Tuesday, November 27th, 5:00pm

Rockland County Office Building

11 New Hempstead Road

New City, NY 10956

contact:  Bob Milone



Tuesday, November 27th 12:00pm

The Capital, Third Floor

In Front of Senate Lobby

Albany, NY 12230

contact:  Karen Scharff


New York City

Tuesday, November 27th 12:00PM

Steps of City Hall

contact: Gregory Fries



Thursday, November 29th 11:30AM

State Office Building

333 East Washington

Syracuse, NY 13202

contact:  Jesse Lenney


And if you haven't already, pease consider forwarding this urgent email to your friends, and/or using these links to spread the word:

[fb] If you're already on Facebookclick here to share with your friends.
[fb]If you're already on Twitter, click here to tweet about the campaign: Tweet

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

National Organization for Women News: Wal-Mart, 2012 Elections, 2013 Conference, One Billion Rising

NOW News and Action Summary

National Organization for Women:
News & Action Summary

November 20, 2012


Take Action Against Wal-Mart

Take Action Against Wal-Mart

Every holiday season, Wal-Mart takes advantage of its workers. We must take action to make sure this greedy corporation pays. This Black Friday NOW chapters, Wal-Mart associates and allies will be demonstrating in front of Wal-Mart stores across the nation. Get involved locally.

NOW Cheers History-Making Wins for Women and Marriage Equality in 2012 Elections

The National Organization for Women offers heartfelt congratulations to all the feminist candidates who won on Nov. 6 and a sincere thanks to all the women's rights supporters who showed up at the polls and made their voices heard. Read more.

NOW Cheers Obama-Biden Win Delivered by Women Voters, Calls for Unconditional End to War on Women

NOW applauds women voters for re-electing President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, defeating some of the most extreme anti-woman tea party candidates running for the Senate, and passing marriage equality measures in Maine, Maryland, and Washington. Read more.

NOW Supports D.C. Budget Autonomy (PDF)

keep abortion legal NOW round

On Nov. 9, NOW Action Vice President Erin Matson delivered testimony urging passage of a referendum that would bring budget autonomy to the District of Columbia and reduce federal interference in abortion rights in D.C. Read more.

One Billion Rising

One Billion Rising 2.13.13

NOW is dedicated to ending violence against women in the U.S. and worldwide. On Feb. 14, 2013, we will rise and dance to demonstrate the spirit of women and men across the globe who despise the cruelty and dominance of gender-based violence.

Join NOW and V-Day for One Billion Rising. Listen to the new anthem Break the Chain. And find out who's rising and dancing in your area.

Conference Spotlight

2013 National NOW Conference
*Save the Date*

Friday, July 5 - Sunday, July 7

Hilton Chicago
720 South Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60605
Phone: 312-922-4400

More info coming soon »

Join or Give

Your support is absolutely vital to NOW's ability to take on the right wing and push ahead on all of our important issues. Please consider contributing and if you're not a member joining NOW.

Support the NOW Foundation
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Find more on NOW's Media Hall of Shame and Say It, Sister! NOW's Blog for Equality


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Say It, Sister! NOW's Blog for Equality Media Hall of Shame


Read more on NOW Read This

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dear President Obama: Do These Things for Women

We need to do the same, and ask other feminist groups to work together to present a list of demands.


From Women's eNews
Dear President Obama: Do These Things for Women

By Susan Rose

WeNews commentator

Monday, November 19, 2012

After providing Obama the bulk of their votes, women are in a position to ask for a roster of policy rewards, from labor protections for domestic workers to rapid implementation of health reform.

(WOMENSENEWS)--Dear Mr. President,

Congratulations on your reelection. It was a hard fought campaign. Thanks to you and Gov. Mitt Romney for your gracious speeches on election night.

I am part of a coalition of groups that voted for you: women, Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans and young people.

The media and commentators are full of articles discussing this demographic alliance and how it will shape future elections.

President Obama, women helped carry the election for you. Fifty-five percent of all your voters were women.

The gender gap resulted in a 10 percent advantage in your reelection. Stephanie Schrock of Emily's List was right when she called women the "most powerful voting bloc" in the country.

On the campaign trail, President Obama, you spoke frequently about moving our country forward. With your reelection, it is time to advance the feminist agenda. The women of this country have earned it.

You could start by extending protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act to domestic workers, who are currently exempted by an outdated "companionship" exception.

And please also keep your eye on the Supreme Court and the defense of a woman's right to abortion as a matter of constitutional privacy.

You could also help us get the new Congress to do the following:

  • Implement the Affordable Care Act (if necessary, tweak it to make it better);

  • Create job training and job programs tailored to unemployed women;

  • Establish welfare-to-work programs that enable women to rise out of poverty;

  • Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act;

  • Initiate family justice programs including paid family leave, paid sick leave and flexible work schedules;

  • Pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights legislation;

  • Pass the Violence Against Women Act.

Women need a champion because we are still under-represented even though we are the majority of the electorate.

The Senate now has 20 percent women, nowhere near the critical mass we need, but an improvement. The House of Representatives has almost 18 percent.

Women's organizations across the country are trying to change that. This cycle they made a strong effort to recruit women to run for office and then backed them in campaigns. The 2012 Project, founded in 2009, led a national effort to recruit women from various professions to run for Congress and state legislatures.

Emily's List, Planned Parenthood, The Feminist Majority, NOW, NWPC, Emerge and others advocated for issues affecting women, endorsed candidates, rallied the troops to support candidates and raised money to help them win their elections. The rallying cry became women can't win if they don't run.

The results showed some progress: a total of 22 new female representatives will be entering Congress in 2013. Four of the women broke a glass ceiling, becoming the first women to represent their states in the U.S. Senate: Hawaii, Massachusetts, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

Much has been written about the war against women this election cycle. Here's what the battlefield looked like:

The Affordable Care Act as well as Medicare became political targets during divisive campaigns. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richardson said that "women's health, more than ever, was a decisive issue in the 2012 election."

The conservative attacks against Planned Parenthood to halt abortions evolved into efforts to deny women the use of contraception. In 2011 and 2012, state legislatures passed a combined 119 measures to restrict access to abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The right to control their bodies convinced women in some states to run and became a determining factor in several elections. Extremist anti-choice candidates such as Missouri's Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock in Indiana and New York's Ann Marie Buerkle were defeated.

Our weak economy has affected women disproportionally with a greater number of women, particularly single families and seniors, slipping into poverty. Women are also gaining fewer of the new jobs being created and their unemployment is increasing, according to the Pew Research Center.

Mothers and families must be able to support themselves financially in order to remain a healthy unit.

Our country needs workplaces that balance both work and family commitments in order for women to succeed economically. Organizations such as MomsRising have become leaders in voicing the needs of women by speaking out on crucial family-justice issues and mobilizing widespread grassroots activity.

Women are the majority of the millions of domestic workers here in the United States. They provide invaluable home and family care, yet their vital labor continues to be devalued. In California, Gov. Jerry Brown recently vetoed a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights that would have provided "meal breaks, overtime pay and other labor protections" for this mostly immigrant working class. Organizations such as The National Domestic Workers Alliance have gained attention with various educational campaigns pushing for basic domestic labor rights to be recognized nationally.

For the first time in many years, Congress did not approve the Violence Against Women Act, which had traditionally been bipartisan legislation. The number of rapes committed annually in the U.S. remains epidemic.


In your victory speech on election night, President Obama, you reached out to Republicans and the nation. I agree, it is time to end our divided nation status, but the new Congress must also demonstrate to women that they matter.

We understand the fiscal challenges facing our country now but we ask you to lead an effort, once and for all, that will treat women as equal partners in our democracy and that will guarantee women their basic human rights and dignity.


Hon. Susan Rose, ret.

Susan Rose served for eight years on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and is the former executive director of the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women. She is a member of the board of trustees of Antioch University Santa Barbara.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Please comment: Daily Beast says Akin and Mourdock "raped themselves."

Please join Erin Matson in commenting directly on this awful piece on Newsweek/Daily Beast that says Akin and Mourdock "raped themselves." Even a short one-line comment helps. The more of us on their site, the more likely Tina Brown is to respond. Thank you!

Service Women's Action Network event

From Rebekah Havrilla of the NOW NYS Young Feminist Task Force:

SWAN and the YWCA of Brooklyn Presents Screening of "Service: When Women Come Marching Home"

On November 14, a group of approximately 50 people gathered at the Roulette Theater in Brooklyn for an evening dedicated to learning more about the issues that women veterans face after leaving military service.  The evening began with a screening of "Service: When Women Come Marching Home" and was followed by a panel moderated by Rachel Natelson from SWAN.  The panelists included Patti Stotter who directed and produced the film, Brigette McCoy who was featured in the film and Anu Bhagwati who is the executive director or SWAN and a veteran. 

"Service" documents the struggles of numerous women veterans after they leave the service.  The issues addressed range from homelessness, military sexual trauma, navigating the VA as a double amputee to the legalities around service dogs for veterans who have 'hidden' wounds.  The movie does a good job of highlighting the diversity of the women within the veteran community and the myriad of issues that they face.   The panelists addressed questions about 'best practices' in helping with reintegration, personal feelings about Veterans Day and what changes in policy they would like to see within the Veterans Administration and Department of Defense.  After the panel, everyone was able to network and get to know each other while enjoying cupcakes and beverages donated by Fluff and Stuff.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Breaking news story: Generals Petraeus and Allen – Helping a Domestic Violence Victim?

Written by my feminist friend, who describes himself as a "recovering sexist."  Please forward widely.   NOW NY State has done a lot of work on behalf of battered mothers' custody issues.

Generals Petraeus and Allen – Helping a Domestic Violence Victim?

By Ben Atherton-Zeman, 11/15/12

Headlines are dominated by General David Petraeus and General John Allen.  Petraeus had an affair with his biographer – both have been connected to Tampa socialite Jill Kelley.

CBS News reports that both generals also know Kelley's twin sister, Natalie Khawam.;contentBody  Two months ago, both generals submitted affidavits in support of Khawam's custody proceedings, as did Mrs. Petraeus.  Previous custody hearings had deemed Khawam an unfit mother.  

(Photo: Natalie Khawam with the Petraeus and Kelly family - 2010, Amu Scherzer, Tampa Bay Times)

According to the New York Post, a previous custody judge "blasted Khawam for giving false evidence."  This Post piece is entitled "Petraeus helps whistleblower's 'unstable' twin in nasty custody fight," and begins with "Gen. David Petraeus sure loved helping his lady friends."  Other media coverage echoes this emphasis on yet another potential impropriety on the part of the generals – some have even compared the sisters to the Khardashians  As of yet, no articles have been written about the possibility that Ms. Khawam is truly a victim of domestic violence.  

Domestic violence should not be the punch line of jokes and snide articles; it should be taken seriously and prioritized.   One in every four U.S. women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.    Most battered women never tell the police – many blame themselves and never tell anyone.  Victims that reveal what happened are often disbelieved by friends, family, police – and judges.  

The stereotype that battered women lie about being abused is all too common.  But court transcripts reveal that, far from lying, Khawam wasn't even permitted to bring up allegations of abuse during the court proceedings.   Indeed, she was threatened with losing custody and visitation if she didn't drop criminal charges against her child's father.*   Khawam's Kafka-esque custody trial first barred her from introducing evidence of abuse, then concluded she hadn't been abused at all.  

Reporters have ignored this compelling evidence of Khawam's abuse, preferring instead to focus on the Generals' letters as further evidence of an inappropriate relationship.  "In the Khawam case, the media was willing to repeat the clearly false findings by the judge," says Barry Goldstein, an author and abuse expert who has represented many battered mothers seeking custody.  "The reporters did not understand the case because they failed to see the need to interview a domestic violence expert who could have provided context.  And the claim that Ms. Khawam lied about her husband's abuse really says more about the inadequate training of the judges than about Ms. Khawam."

A recent U.S. Department of Justice study by Dr. Daniel Saunders found that many judges, evaluators, lawyers and judges lack training on domestic violence.  Training on topics such as risk assessment and screening for abuse is needed to make an informed decision about abuse allegations – in the absence of such training, myths about domestic violence substitute for accurate information.  Significantly, the Saunders study showed that professionals without the needed training tended to disbelieve valid complaints of domestic violence and make decisions that harm children. 

There are many examples of battered women who are labeled "unstable" and are accused of lying about abuse, when clear evidence is presented to the contrary.  Medical documentation  of child and spousal abuse are routinely ignored by courts, who persist instead in the mythical narrative that battered women lie about being abused.  Incredibly, the presentation of such evidence often serves to vindicate some judge's misguided opinions about the believability of battered women – such was the case with Khawam's judge when medical evidence of child abuse was presented.**  

"Every year 58,000 children are sent for custody or unprotected visitation with dangerous abusers," says Barry Goldstein.  Goldstein reports that when these women are not believed, the consequences for the children can be grave.  "In a two year period starting in 2009, abusive fathers involved in contested custody cases murdered 175 children - often with the unwitting assistance of the courts."  

Dr. Mo Therese Hannah, professor and cofounder of the Battered Mother's Custody Conference, says that Khawam's situation is far from unique.  "This has happened to women all over this country - rich and poor, Ph.D.s, M.D.s, waitresses, attorneys - almost all of them fine mothers who happened to have a child with an abusive man," says Dr. Hannah, who went through a custody battle herself.  "Look for this to be another major public scandal rivaling Penn State and clergy sexual abuse."

Domestic violence victims and their advocates have done incredible work to stem the tide of spousal abuse.  Most of this abuse takes the form of men's violence against women – still, supportive male allies have always been sought and welcomed by the battered women's movement.  These male allies have been asked to believe battered women, support them and support the movement.  General Petraeus and Allen seem to have done just that by writing letters in support of Natalie Khawam.  

With a mountain of documented evidence on her side, Ms. Khawam deserves to be believed, not vilified in the media.  In the rush to paint General Petraeus and General Allen as having inappropriate conduct with multiple women, Natalie Khawam is getting thrown under the bus.  She, like her sister, has been cast as a two-dimensional sideshow act by the New York Post and other media outlets.  Apparently, the generals are the "real story."  

Ms. Khawam deserves more.  When any woman has the courage to say she's been abused by her partner, she deserves our belief and our support.  Her son deserves to be with a safe, protective parent – not an abusive one.  Whatever else they've done, Generals Petraeus and Allen deserve our thanks for supporting Ms. Khawam, not our condemnation.  

The Post and others imply a sleazy, inappropriate connection between General Petraeus and Allen, and twin sisters Jill Kelley and Natalie Khawam.  But maybe the generals were simply acting as more men should act – believing and supporting a battered woman as she seeks justice for her and her son.  

Ben Atherton-Zeman is a spokesperson for the National Organization for Men Against Sexism.  He gives talks and theatrical performances about domestic and sexual abuse: 

* Khawam's custody and visitation hearings began at the District of Columbia Superior Court in 2009.  A Judge Saddler was asked to determine whether the District of Columbia had jurisdiction over the case.  During the court proceedings, Saddler refused to hear any evidence of abuse, stating "I just don't want you going into whether there was domestic violence, did he hit her, did he hear screaming, because frankly whether somebody heard screaming or not is not going to help me in determining whether I have jurisdiction (Saddler court transcripts, 12/8/09)."  

Despite expressly excluding all evidence of domestic violence - on pain of being held in contempt of court if Mother even tried to introduce it - Judge Saddler entered a factual finding in her jurisdictional order that no domestic violence occurred.  

Saddler's finding was taken as reason not to admit any evidence of abuse by Judge Kravitz, who determined the final custody/visitation arrangements.  "I can tell you that I see no reason to look beyond Judge Saddler's findings of fact that there was… no domestic violence (Kravitz court transcripts, 8/6/10)."  

Relying solely on Judge Saddler's unsupported factual finding, and before hearing any evidence, Judge Kravitz ordered that the Father should have unsupervised visits with their child.  Furthermore, Kravitz threatened Ms. Khawam, telling her she should dismiss all of the pending domestic violence actions against her child's father: "I can tell you right now, if you get him arrested for something that has occurred before this moment in time that's going to be very problematic in terms of the custody of this child (Kravitz court transcripts, 8/12/10)."  This despite the fact that a Florida prosecutor was bringing criminal actions against the child's father – Judge Saddler's actions could be considered witness tampering. 


**According to court documents, Khawam became alarmed when her three year-old child showed up to one supervised visit (December 2011) with a visible nose injury on his nose.  The child continued to complain of pain, and there was some concern his nose might be broken.  The hotel doctor examined the injury, and the minor child reported, outside Mother's presence, that his Father had hit him in the face.  He further demonstrated the hit to the face to the doctor.  The doctor referred him to Children's National Medical Center, where the child repeated his disclosure that Father had hit him in the face.  A full abuse work-up was done on the child, which revealed no further injuries.  In accordance with the terms of the custody order, the child was released to Father after a report was made to CPS.

Incredibly, the child's father then filed an emergency motion with the court to strip Mother of her already-limited visitation.  He alleged Khawam, who was supervised during the entire visit, had made the injury up and had improperly subjected the child to extensive medical testing (all recommended by the treating physicians) at the hospital.  

The child's father lied in the emergency motion, saying, among other things, that hospital security had threatened Mother with handcuffs if she did not leave the hospital.  (Khawam's attorneys have a recording of hospital security flatly denying that, and saying that Khawam was cooperative.)

Judge Kravitz, rather than taking Khawam's concerns seriously, took the opportunity to lecture Khawam for having improperly taken the child to the hospital (at the express recommendation of the treating physician.  Kravitz further entered a change to the custody order limiting Ms. Khawam's ability to seek medical care for the child in the future -- even though the child's father had produced no evidence that Khawam had done anything wrong, the treating doctor filed an affidavit supporting Khawam and was available in court to testify, and the neutral visitation supervisor's notes supported Mother's version of events, and she was available to testify in court as well.