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7 Tips to Say “No” and Assert Yourself Today!

November 29, 2011 By: admin Category: Consumer Education, Feature Article

by Nancy Stampahar of Silver Lining Solutions

The crazy, hustle-bustle holiday season is approaching. By learning how to occasionally say “no” and treating each other with respect, you can take control of the demands at work and home you are facing. You must learn how to not fret over your own feelings of guilt, fears of rejection or possible repercussions. You can still be helpful and considerate of others, but you must take care of yourself first. Before you respond to someone, ask yourself, “What would make me most happy and fulfilled?” Once you develop assertive communication skills, you will be able to effectively handle difficult people and awkward situations.

Aggressive Communication Looks Like This:

“This is what you’re going to do and you have no say in the matter.” Too many dominating, overbearing behaviors surface and push people away or into submission. The aggressive person lacks self-esteem and acts out of fear to control people and situations. Unfortunately, most people get turned off and don’t want to be around this type of person because they are too disrespectful and demanding.

Passive Communication Looks Like This:

“Whatever you ask, I’ll do it whether I want to or not.” Too many unwanted yes’s build up resentment and passive-aggressive behaviors can surface. The passive person lacks self-worth and self-respect. Unfortunately, the word of a passive person cannot be trusted because they are not open and honest about their feelings, needs or opinions.

Assertive Communication Looks Like This:

“I know that this is important to you. This is also important to me. Let’s talk about some options that are fair to both of us.” Respectful, healthy behaviors evolve. This healthy, mature style says, “I hear you. You matter, and I matter too.”

7 Tips to Say “No” and Assert Yourself Today

1. Become self-aware of your communication and behavior patterns. What is consistently happening in your life? How do these patterns affect you?
2. Evaluate the reasons you feel the need to please or control everyone.
3. Realize the goal of assertive communication is to express your thoughts and boundaries while being direct, honest and respectful of others.
4. Realize it is necessary and okay to say “no” sometimes and to ask questions.
5. Example for Anyone: “I see why this is important to you. I am unable to help this time. Let’s try to figure out some other possible solutions that could work.”
6. Example for Boss: “This is what is on my plate right now. Which one of these priorities would you prefer I remove to accommodate your request?”
7. Example for Anyone: “I’d love to join you but my schedule is already full that week. Please keep me in mind the next time. Have fun.”

If you do not address your own unique needs, your frustrations will build, you will feel taken for granted and your performances and relationships will suffer. As Dr. Phil says, “We teach people how to treat us.” It is up to you to face the fears and guilt you carry from your disease to please. Find your courage to change and grow. When you stop feeling guilty and seeking approval of others, your days will be fueled by positive energy, confidence and self-respect. You will feel empowered and in control of your life because you utilized your power of choice. You hold the power. Enjoy the season and assert yourself today!

Source: Nancy Stampahar’s energetic, engaging personality and work initiatives are packed with real-life how to’s and solutions that help you succeed at both work and home. A skilled consultant and the award-winning author of Peace, Love, and Lemonade: A recipe to Make Your Life Sweeter, Nancy’s heartfelt words, expertise and enthusiasm will ignite your power within to succeed, and her famed “Silver Lining Solutions” will have you making lemonade out of lemons in no time at all!

A Holiday Story

November 29, 2011 By: admin Category: Consumer Education, Feature Article

by Mary Grace Musuneggi

Two women, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One woman was allowed to sit up in her bed for an hour each afternoon. Her bed was next to the room’s only window. The other woman had to spend all her time flat on her back.
The women talked for hours on end. They spoke of their husbands and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in community service, where they had been on vacation.
Every afternoon, when the woman in the bed by the window could sit up, she would pass the time by describing to her roommate all the things she could see outside the window.
The woman in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where her world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.
She talked about how the window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.
As the woman by the window described all this in exquisite details, the woman on the other side of the room would close her eyes and imagine this picturesque scene.
One warm afternoon, the woman by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other woman could not hear the band – she could see it in her mind’s eye as the woman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.
Days and weeks passed by.
One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the woman by the window, who had died peacefully in her sleep. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other woman asked if she could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure she was comfortable, she left her alone.
Slowly, painfully, she propped herself up on one elbow to take her first look at the real world outside. She strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed.
The window faced a blank wall.
The woman asked the nurse what could have compelled her deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside. The nurse responded that the woman was blind and could not even see the wall.
She said, “Perhaps she just wanted to encourage you.”
Epilogue: There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations.

Domestic Violence in and out of the Workplace

October 02, 2011 By: admin Category: Consumer Education, Feature Article

By Anna Marie Petrarca Gire
Domestic violence affects all areas of our communities, including the workplace. An employee’s home life can affect their performance at work, particularly with an issue like domestic violence. Many abusers will stalk, harass, threaten or injure a significant other at work. For the victim, actions like these can present barriers to getting and keeping a job. For the employer and co-workers, it can result in higher medical costs, reduced productivity, absenteeism and an increased risk of violence to others.
Not only is domestic violence devastating for people, Domestic Violence is bad for business. By choosing to proactively address this issue in the workplace, employers can:
• Enhance workplace safety
• Increase employee productivity and morale
• Decrease absenteeism and turnover
• Create a powerful, positive impact in the community
• Implement effective prevention and intervention strategies
A recent study in Maine found that 78% of surveyed perpetrators used workplace resources to express remorse or anger, check up on, pressure or threaten the victim.
Prevalence of Domestic Violence in the workplace
In 2005, a national benchmark survey of 1200 employed adults (age 18 plus) by the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence found that intimate partner violence has a wide and far-reaching effect on Americans working lives:
• 44% of employed adults surveyed personally experienced the effects of domestic violence
• 21% of respondents (men and women) identified themselves as victims of intimate partner violence
• 64% of victims of domestic violence indicated that their ability to work was affected by the violence.
American Bar Association Commission
Studies reported on in 2006 by the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence reflect that:
• 30-53% of employed victims of domestic violence lose their jobs due at least in part to the abuse
• 78% reported being late to work as a result of domestic violence
• 47% reported being assaulted before work
• 67% said the perpetrator came to the workplace
• 96-98% of employed domestic violence victims experienced problems at work related to the abuse

Domestic violence encompasses a wide range of acts committed by one person against another in an intimate relationship or within a family. It is a pattern of coercive behavior that is used by one person to gain power and control over another. This may include physical violence, sexual, emotional and psychological intimidation, verbal abuse, stalking and economic control. It may take the form of breaking objects, hurting/killing pets, yelling, driving recklessly to endanger or scare the victim, isolating the victim from friends and family members and controlling resources like money, vehicles, credit, medications and time. In same gender relationships, it can include threats to out the victim.
Domestic violence can happen to people of all racial, economic, educational, religious backgrounds and in heterosexual and same gender relationships. While both men and women may be victims of domestic violence, research shows that the overwhelming majority of adult victims are women and that domestic violence is a major cause of injury to women.
Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey (July 2000) indicate that domestic violence is pervasive in U.S. society. Analysis of the survey data from calls to 8,000 U.S. women and 8,000 U.S. men, produced the following key results:
• Nearly 25% of women and 7.6% of men said they were raped and or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabitating partner or date in their lifetime.
• Almost 5% of women and 0.6 % of men experienced stalking by a current or former spouse, cohabitating partner or date in their lifetime.
• Women experience more chronic and injurious physical assaults at the hands of intimate partners than do men.
• Slightly more than 11% of lesbians experienced rape, physical assault and/or stalking by a female cohabitant.
• Approximately 15% of gay men experienced rape, physical assault and/or stalking by a male cohabitant.
• Most intimate partner victimizations are not reported to the police

According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
Domestic Violence is the leading cause of injury to women ages 15 – 44 in the United States – more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.
 1 in 4 women will become victims of domestic violence in their lifetime
 1 in 3 teenage girls will be physically assaulted by a boyfriend
 Domestic violence is the leading predictor of child abuse
 Boys who witness domestic violence in their homes are 1500 times more likely to perpetrate abuse later in life
 50% of girls growing up in an abusive home will go on to be victims of abuse themselves
2007 Relationship and Gender Breakdown of Adult domestic Violence Victims:
 56.5% (48) females killed by current or former intimate partners
 22.3% (19) males killed by others
 10.6% (8) males killed by current or former intimate partners
 9.2% (8) females killed by others
Additionally, Pennsylvania has the third highest number of murder suicides in the nation – including 14 cases in just six months. Seventy-three percent involved an intimate partner – spouse, common-law spouse, ex-spouse, or girlfriend/boyfriend. Of these, 94 percent were women killed by their intimate partners.

Recognizing Domestic Violence

There is not a “typical” victim of domestic violence – it can affect anyone from any socioeconomic, demographic, geographic or educational background. The greatest risk factor for victimization is simply being a woman.
Domestic violence occurs when one person in an intimate relationship exercises power and control over the other through a pattern of intentional behaviors, including psychological, emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
While most people are able to recognize an abusive relationship when it involves physical violence, relationships involving psychological or emotional abuse are more subtle, but no less destructive. If allowed to continue, these behaviors can escalate to include more physically dangerous abuse over time. It is important to recognize key characteristics of domestic violence so that abuse can be stopped before it becomes life threatening.

Are You Or Anyone You Know Being Abused?
The warning signs of domestic violence
There are frequently warning signs that domestic violence is happening in a relationship. If you have experienced or observed any of the following behaviors in a relationship, domestic violence could be happening and you might be able to take action to help yourself or others. Advocates at domestic violence programs are available to help callers determine what options are available.
Warning signs of domestic violence can include:
• One partner harms, or threatens to harm the other, their friends, family members, or pets
• One partner frequently checks up on the other (e.g. listening in on phone calls, constantly asking about whereabouts, calling a person at work or school, or monitoring a person´s car mileage, computer or phone usage)
• One partner puts the other down (e.g. name-calling, constant criticism, or public or private humiliation)
• One partner tries to control the other, (e.g. telling the person not to see certain friends or family members, keeping the person away from work or school, making the person stay home when she wants to go out)
• One partner acts jealous or possessive and says it´s a sign of love
• One partner destroys or threatens to destroy the other´s belongings
• One partner hurts or kills pets or threatens to harm them
• One partner touches the other in ways that hurts or scare the other partner
• One partner makes the other have sex in ways or at times that are uncomfortable
• One partner blames the other and other people for everything, and gets angry in a way that scares the other partner
• One partner says that the concerns of the other about the relationship are not real or not important
• One partner threatens or attempts suicide when the other talks about ending the relationship
• One partner withholds medication, food or other necessary items
• In a same sex relationship, one partner threatens to “out” the other
There is no excuse for domestic violence:
Drinking and drug use do not cause battering. Battering does not cause addiction. Chemical dependency and domestic violence are two separate problems; however, both problems can often co-exist within an abusive relationship. When this happens, both the severity of injuries and lethality rates may increase, making safety and sobriety both areas of concern. Un- or underemployment, stress or ill health, also do not cause domestic violence. These are only excuses or justifications for an abuser´s behavior.
Remember, anyone can be in a violent relationship. If you, or anyone you know is in a violent relationship, a local domestic violence program is available in every county in Pennsylvania or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE

Listening to Women—Obama’s Jobs Proposal

September 17, 2011 By: admin Category: Consumer Education, Feature Article

Listening to Women—Obama’s Jobs Proposal
By Ellen Bravo


Ellen Bravo is an activist and author. She serves as executive director of Family Values @ Work, a network of 15 state coalitions working for paid sick days and paid family leave (http://www.familyvaluesatwork.org/). The former director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women, her most recent book is Taking on the Big Boys, or Why Feminism is Good for Families, Business and the Nation. She is a WMC Progressive Women’s Voices alumna.

The jobs plan President Obama presented to Congress this week recognizes that out-of-work women need targeted help.

Darlene, a Milwaukee elementary school teacher, was one of hundreds laid off this summer because of the draconian cuts to education from Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. She was also one of the women cheering about the latest jobs proposal from President Barack Obama, which he submitted to Congress on Monday this week.

“I was afraid he’d just talk about ‘shovel-ready’ jobs,” she said. “There aren’t many women at the other end of those shovels. But there are a lot of us who might get back to work if this proposal passes.”

The president’s plan would invest $30 billion to save jobs for up to 280,000 teachers. Given that women make up about 78 percent of teachers in this country, that’s a huge investment in women’s employment.

The American Jobs Act does include a lot of construction jobs, and—unlike the 2009 Recovery Act—$50 million in funds specifically geared towards job training for women, people of color and other under-represented groups in those jobs, targeting workers in the local areas where the jobs will be done. They would be trained for transportation-related activities, including construction, contract administration, inspection, and security. Another $10 million will help minority-owned and disadvantaged business enterprises gain better access to transportation contracts, in turn helping strengthen and grow small businesses that help drive local economies.

Jobs would also be created to fix the nation’s crumbling schools. The proposal calls for a robust $25 billion investment in school infrastructure that will modernize at least 35,000 public schools—that means creating jobs that have a direct tie to improved learning for our kids. Funds could be used for a broad range of purposes, including repair and renovation projects, greening and energy efficiency upgrades, asbestos abatement and removal, and modernization efforts to build new science and computer labs and to upgrade technology.

President Obama is also proposing $5 billion to modernize community colleges—another area with many female employees—and to rehabilitate homes.

Several other features of the proposed plan would benefit women:
•Extending into 2012 additional unemployment benefits. That could help 2.6 million American women currently receiving unemployment insurance from losing their benefits as they continue to look for work.
•Extending the payroll tax cut, putting more money into workers’ pockets.
•Supporting legislation prohibiting discrimination against the long-term unemployed.
•Expanding work-sharing to help avoid layoffs. This would save jobs by allowing workers who reduce their hours to receive unemployment benefits for that time, and all stay on the job.

As the Institute for Women’s Policy Research has pointed out, the so-called recovery hasn’t worked for most people, but men are going back to work “at about three times the speed of women….Since October of 2009 when men’s and women’s total jobs numbers were virtually equal, women have failed to gain any jobs, whereas men have gained 1.6 million. The gap between women’s and men’s employment in August is currently 1.6 million.”

The point isn’t to slow down recovery in areas that benefit men, but to pay attention to the gender and racial impact of the current disastrous economic situation, and target programs accordingly. This time around, the administration has done a better job of getting input from women’s groups, and listening to their recommendations.

Here’s what else women’s groups are saying that must be heard: women will suffer from any changes to Social Security or Medicare that delay the age of eligibility or otherwise make these programs harder to use.

Instead of cutting these programs that working women and middle class families rely on, Congress should focus on cutting tax breaks for those who earn more than $106,000, the current wage base on which Social Security taxes can be imposed. Those who can afford to do so should pay their fair share.

Likewise, we need to close corporate tax loopholes that let giants like General Electric get tax refunds, and axe the right-wing suggestion to cut the Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps the working poor climb out of poverty.

We also need job retention policies like paid sick days and paid family leave. Bad times are the worst time to lose a job for being a good mother. Policies that protect working women will help strengthen our families and help the economy grow.

President Obama knows what we all know—this Congress is not about to pass the majority of his jobs proposals. That makes it all the more important to name the policies we really need.

If Congress doesn’t follow the president’s call to pass the American Jobs Act, it’s the responsibility of all of us to hold them accountable in the 2012 elections.


September 17, 2011 By: admin Category: Consumer Education, Feature Article


Top Ten Historic Advances for Women Now at Risk

1. Women’s Right to Vote (1920)
The 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1920, guaranteed American women the right to vote, although many women of color did not win full voting rights until 45 years later under the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Currently women surpass men both in the proportion and numbers of women who vote.

Instead of advocating a 21st century voting system that is inclusive, conservative legislatures in 30 states are attempting to turn the clock back to the 19th century when only privileged white males were allowed to vote. Newly imposed ID requirements target students, people of color and women. As many as 32 million women of voting age do not have documentation with their current legal name.

2. Social Security Act (1935)
Social Security is the bedrock of older women’s financial security – virtually the only source of income for 3 in 10 women 65 and older – and a critical source of disability and life insurance protection throughout their lives.

Bills introduced by conservative Members of Congress would gut the current Social Security program and disproportionately impact women’s economic security. The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction could propose benefit cuts, such as a reduction in the annual cost-of-living adjustment that would especially hurt women, or an increase in the retirement age.

3. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Taken together, these laws prohibit employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, including pregnancy, and national origin. The Equal Pay Act deals specifically with pay discrimination on the basis of sex. Title VII covers all employment actions, including hiring, promotion, pay, and termination, as well as all of the other terms and conditions of employment. Both have been central to expanding women’s economic opportunities and helping women achieve economic and retirement security.

Recent rulings by the conservative majority of the Supreme Court have weakened employment discrimination laws, placing women’s rights in the workplace in jeopardy and actions by conservative Senators have undermined efforts to restore these acts and strengthen employment protections for women, including filibustering the Paycheck Fairness Act in 2010.

4. Medicare (1965)
Medicare is the nation’s health insurance program for seniors and younger adults with permanent disabilities. More than half (56%) of all Medicare beneficiaries are women.

The conservative majority of the House of Representative passed a fiscal year 2012 budget bill that will effectively end Medicare and replace it for those now under 55 with a voucher to buy private insurance. It would increase out-of-pocket health care costs, limit benefits and severely restrict the choice of doctors.

5. Medicaid (1965)
Medicaid provides 19 million women access to vital health services at all stages of their lives. In 2007 nearly seven in ten elderly individuals who relied on Medicaid for assistance were women. Additionally, Medicaid covers millions of mothers and more than one-third of all children.

Under the conservative House budget, Medicaid was targeted for deep budget cuts and converted into capped block grants to states. Medicaid still faces threats as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction deliberates and identifies at least an additional $1.2 trillion in budget cuts.

6. Title X, The National Family Planning Program (1970)
Title X is the only dedicated source of federal funding for family planning services in the United States. Title X provides family planning and other preventive health care to more than 5 million low-income and uninsured women who may otherwise lack access to health care.

For the first time in history, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to completely defund Title X in 2011. Nine states have reduced family planning funding through legislative action and one (NJ) has eliminated it through the governor’s veto.

7. Title IX of the Education Amendments (1972)
Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs or activities. Title IX greatly expanded equal access to college education, professional and graduate schools and dramatically increased equal access to sports opportunities so that today girls and women represent over 40% of all college and high school athletes. Title IX also plays a vital role in increasing gender equity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education by improving the climate for women in those fields.

A combination of administrative budget cuts, regulations, private school vouchers schemes, and pressure from congressional opponents threatens to weaken enforcement of Title IX.

8. Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision (1973)
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Roe v. Wade that a right to privacy under the 14th Amendment extended to a women’s decision to have an abortion.

Anti-abortion Members of Congress have introduced legislation that would make all abortions illegal and essentially overturn Roe v. Wade. In 2011, over 1,000 pieces of legislation have been introduced and 162 bills have been passed at the state level to restrict access to abortion and/or family planning.

9. The Violence Against Women Act (1994)
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) created the first U.S. federal legislation acknowledging the severity of crimes related to domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and violence against women.

VAWA will expire at the end of 2011 unless it is reauthorized. The law needs to be updated and strengthened, including the addition of provisions that will help protect students on campus who are consistently subject to sexual harassment, assault and violence. Despite this, no action has yet been taken to ensure VAWA is reauthorized.

10. The Affordable Care Act (2010)
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) covers maternity care, eliminates pre-existing conditions and prevents health plans from charging women more than men for the same coverage. ACA also covers well-woman preventive health services, such as an annual well-woman visit, contraceptives, mammograms, cancer screenings, prenatal care and counseling for domestic violence, as basic health care for women at no additional cost and includes the first federal ban on sex discrimination in health care programs and activities. Combined with other provisions, the ACA is an historic step forward for women’s health and economic security.

The House of Representatives voted to repeal the ACA. Conservative senators, state legislators and governors have also pledged to repeal ACA and deny women, of all ages, critical preventive care service

Life Balance: Are You Taking Control Over Time or is Time Controlling You

September 01, 2011 By: admin Category: Consumer Education, Feature Article

By Lisa Kanarek


How’s Your Time Management?

A friend told me about a time management seminar that lasted two days. I wondered why a seminar that focused on ways to save time could last two days, so a few weeks ago I went to one.

My suspicions were right…the speaker could have presented the information in three hours.
By the second day, I felt sorry for the people who were originally thrilled to have two days off from work. They were going to have to spend the next week catching up on e-mails, phone calls and everything else they missed while they were at the seminar.

Not all time management seminars are a waste of time, but you don’t have to go to a seminar to learn time management tips. Start with these four tips:

1.Throughout the day ask yourself if what you are doing is the best use of your time. Are you working on something that needs to be done today or could you do it another day?
You don’t have to check up on yourself more often than every three hours because then you’d be wasting time.

2.Determine your best time of day and schedule important tasks for that time. I used to say I was a morning person, then I was an afternoon person, and now I’m a “work when I can” person. Between my sons’ and my clients’ schedules, I need to be flexible. Concentrate on important tasks during the time you’re more productive and leave the less important tasks for when your energy level is low.

3.Sometimes you have to work around your family’s schedule. Before I started my own business and worked for a corporation, I represented several cartoonists including the late Jerry Bittle, creator of the comic strip “Geech.” Between 8:00 pm and 3:30pm Monday-Friday, Jerry would work on Geech, sleep for a few hours, have breakfast with his kids and then go back to sleep until about 11:00 am.
When his children came home from school, he was available to spend time with them.

4.Stay focused on the activity at hand. It’s easy to start one project and then bounce to another without finishing the first—at times I’m the perfect example. At the end of the day, I’m exhausted but haven’t accomplished as much as I’d hoped to. That’s when I refocus, stay on task and usually accomplish more the next day.

There’s not doubt that is takes time to save time. By changing a few things about how you work, you’ll save time in the long run.

Home office expert Lisa Kanarek is founder of www.Working Naked.com, a website that helps small business learn various aspects of working from home through “how-to” articles, videos and product reviews. She is the author of five books, including Working Naked: A Guide to the Bare Essentials of Home Office Life, and has been a guest on Good Morning America, CNN, CNBC, and Public Radio’s Marketplace.
Follow Lisa on Twitter @WorkingNaked


August 01, 2011 By: admin Category: Consumer Education, Feature Article

By Debbie Hines

Voter ID laws enacted now in over half the states, requiring voters to present some form of identification as a requirement to vote, are seemingly simple in nature. But they will place unreasonable burdens on many women who may well be unaware of the difficulty they could face when casting their vote in the 2012 election.

Fourteen states require a government issued photo ID when voting in person. At the time of registering to vote, other states like Kansas and Alabama further demand proof of citizenship beyond the federal legal requirement that potential voters swear they are citizens. During the 2011 legislative session, five states—Wisconsin, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina—joined Georgia and Indiana by enacting the strictest form of photo ID requirement for voters, and most of these newest changes will first come into effect for the 2012 election.

Proponents of the laws argue that photo IDs are a reasonable way to protect our elections and make them fair. But far from harmless, the laws are complex and place unnecessary hardship on women—those who are newly married or recently divorced as well as senior citizens and low-income women.

Requiring voters to register with proof of citizenship is more problematic for women than for men. A survey by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU law school shows that only 66 percent of voting-age women with ready access to any proof of citizenship have a document with their current legal name. Women who have recently married or divorced and have changed their names—and whose passport, naturalization papers or birth certificate are in their former names—will then be required to obtain a certified court document showing the divorce decree or marriage certificate. These documents vary in cost from state to state but can cost upwards of $25 plus any time off work needed to obtain them. The certified court documents may not even be in the state where you now reside, further delaying and complicating matters.

And for low income persons including women earning less than $25,000 per year, at least 12 percent don’t even have ready access to passports, naturalization papers or birth certificates, according to the Brennan Center research. Voting rights advocates argue that citizenship requirements have the potential to affect millions of Americans, including low-income and women voters. The League of Women Voters in many states has long asserted these laws hinder those who can least afford to take off work and pay for transportation to get the necessary documents.

For those women who are already registered to vote, the same problem will hold true. The photo ID must be in the same name that is registered with the Election Board. Hence, any recent changes in name from divorce or marriage will require certified proof of the name change along with the new photo ID. Of course, most men need not endure such onerous paper trail requirements. But U.S. women change their names in 90 percent of marriages. Karen Celestino-Horseman, an attorney for the League of Women Voters, says “women in particular are going to be impacted,” by requirements that they produce documents authenticating every name change in cases of marriage and divorce.

Some of the laws will allow you to provisionally vote if you arrive on Election Day without the proper ID, and then return within several days with a current photo ID. There is no guarantee that a provisional ballot will count. And taking an extra day to straighten things out and get the necessary photo ID has an economic consequence for many working women, particularly low income women. Lawyers who challenged the Indiana voter ID law, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008, cited the experience of Valeria Williams. A black Republican in her 60s, she was told in 2006 that her telephone bill, letter from the Social Security Administration addressed to her and an expired driver’s license were not sufficient. She cast a provisional ballot that then was not counted. A Voter Advancement Project study of the 2006 general election in Ohio and Florida found that many provisional ballots of eligible voters were rejected “simply because their envelopes were incomplete” according to election rules, since poll workers had given inadequate instructions.

The argument by the supporters of these voter ID laws that you can’t cash a check, board a plane or drive a car without a photo ID fails to recognize that not everyone flies or drives. And many seniors who lack photo IDs have direct deposit into accounts, no longer need to go anywhere to cash a check and no longer drive. Seniors who have expired driver’s licenses may be prohibited from voting without another government issued photo ID. None of the arguments in support of these voter ID laws address the extra burdens placed on seniors and low income, divorced and newly married women.

Whether or not these new voter ID laws are intended to disenfranchise women voters, the result is the same. They will disenfranchise many women voters. Equal access to the polls is paramount for all. Women and particularly women of color who fought so hard for suffrage and became the last to get that right may now be the first to lose it

Peace Laureates Take On the War On Women

June 15, 2011 By: admin Category: Consumer Education, Feature Article

By Marianne Schnall

Members of the Nobel Women’s Initiative are marshaling their collective
wisdom and experience to tackle the challenge of ending rape as a weapon
of war.”Violence starts in the mind, so we have to start by changing the minds of
men and women all over the world.” Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi,
democracy leader in Burma, participated in the conference by video.
Certain topics have always been hard to talk about—rape and sexual abuse
ranking high up on that list. And yet we must speak up more because of the
many women affected. According to conservative UN estimates, “worldwide,
one in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.”
It is likely that sexual assault has happened to you, or to your friend, your mother,
your daughter, your sister—the girl next to you on line at the grocery store, to
scores of women reading these words right now. In too many cases, the secret
lies buried deep within us for the rest of our lives.

But six women who are Nobel peace laureates want to not only break the silence
but also to spearhead a global campaign to end rape. Who better to take on this
challenge than this group who have individually overcome enormous odds?
Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta
Menchu Tum, Betty Williams and Mairead Maguire have already created a global
organization to “work together for peace with justice and equality.” As part of this
effort, the Nobel Women’s Initiative just released a report that finds that rape as a
weapon of war is a crime occurring “on a massive scale” and is a threat to global
peace and security. War on Women: Time for Action to End Sexual Violence in
Conflict examines studies of sexual violence in five regions of the world, explores
the leading causes of such heinous acts, assesses actions taken by the international
community and offers some ways individuals and governments can move forward to
end sexual violence.

“Waging war on the bodies of women has got to stop,” says Jody Williams, the 1997 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her work to ban landmines. “Like any tactic of war, it can be eliminated.”

Rape is only one of many manifestations of the global pandemic of sexual violence—what some at the UN call a “global scourge”—that includes sexual slavery, forced prostitution, mutilation, as well as forced pregnancy and sterilization. Women may be targeted as members of a different tribe, to force their families off mineral-rich lands or to silence their voices raised to defend human rights. Whatever the reason, the scale and scope of the problem is growing. In places such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur, Rwanda, Bosnia and Burma, mass rapes have been used as a deliberate and strategic tactic of war—as an effective way to terrorize civilians and tear the basic fabric of society.

According to a report in May in the American Journal of Public Health, almost two million women and girls have been raped in the Congo, at an alarming rate of approximately 1100 a day, 48 women every hour. In the 1990s, more than 500,000 women were raped in the Rwanda genocide, and some 40,000 during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We should allow that information to go beyond our eyes and our brains and sink into our hearts, to feel the suffering of a girl as young as two months or a woman as old as eighty. These women may have been raped in front of family members, their bodies violated with broken glass bottles or rifles, leaving them permanently mutilated or pregnant or infected with HIV and other diseases. While the perpetrators rarely suffer any repercussions, the women are often sentenced to a lifetime of misery—ostracized by their communities and rarely getting the medical and psychological support they need.

To kick-start its effort to mobilize the world community, the Nobel Women’s Initiative organized a three-day international conference last month in Canada of more than 120 activists, academics, security experts and corporate leaders from some 36 countries. Participants at “Women Forging a New Security: Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict” shared ideas and developed strategies to join together as an organized movement, ending with a day of action, in which they called upon the public to pressure their elected officials to “take a stand.”

There is no single solution to stopping the use of sexual violence in conflict zones; it is entangled with many other thorny issues that face the world locally and internationally.

However the peace laureates can speak with authority of non-violent means to resolve conflicts and to begin to look with an honest, open heart at its roots—at the cracks in the culture and the people in places where violence, and particularly sexual violence, thrives.

How is it that human beings have grown so disconnected from each other, from our sense of compassion and empathy for the suffering of another human being, that such savage and brutal crimes can be routinely committed on such a grand scale?

This profoundly disturbing problem nevertheless offers the potential for hope and transformation,
for the world community to, as Nobel Laureate Maguire Maguire puts it, “create a civilization with a heart.”
Says Maguire, who won the peace prize in 1976 for her efforts to end violence in Ireland, “Sexual violence is not just happening in far away places, it is happening in our own homes.
We need to recognize that this is not someone else’s problem but an issue to be faced by the whole human family. Working together, we can bring these horrific crimes to an end.”

Cheer Her Rapist? Let’s Make Noise Over This

May 15, 2011 By: admin Category: Feature Article



Article courtesy of Women’s eNews and Wendy Murphy
Women’s eNews website

By  Wendy Murphy

A Texas teen was expelled from her cheerleading squad for refusing to
cheer for a guy accused of raping her. The courts have let her down,
so about a dozen of us who are former NFL cheerleaders are standing
up. We want to hear some noise about this.
(WOMENSENEWS)–On May 2 the United States Supreme Court declined to
hear the appeal of a Texas high school cheerleader who was kicked off
her squad for refusing to cheer for a basketball player accused of
raping her weeks earlier.

About a dozen of us former NFL cheerleaders, standing on the
sidelines, were stunned. Then we decided to do what we can to speak up
for Hillaire, who wants her real first name to be used.
“There’s always been this idea that if you’re a cheerleader,
you’re just there to decorate the sidelines for the benefit of male
players and fans,” said Cheryl Duddy Schoenfeld, who cheered for
the NFL for two years in the 1970s. “Well we’ve got news for
anyone who believes in such nonsense. We are rallying behind this girl
and her family and we are committed to doing what we can to make sure
this never happens again–to any girl. If the school officials and
courts won’t support her, we will. We are calling on all
cheerleaders–NFL, college and high school, past and present–to step
up and join us in this effort.”

The victim’s family has been ordered to pay $45,000 in costs to
reimburse the school for having to defend against the lawsuit.

“Making the victim’s parents pay tens of thousands of dollars
because they tried to protect their child is like sending a message to
all cheerleaders that they had better stay quiet about things like
sexual assault and dating violence,” said Bonnie Gardner-Drumm,
an NFL cheerleader for five years in the early 1980s.

She calls the incident an outrage. “How hard would it have been
for school officials to just let her stay silent? Ideally they should
have forbidden the guy to play sports, but insisting that a young
woman literally cheer for a man who abused her is its own form of

Support ‘Really Good’

The victim’s lawyer, Larry Watts, said he was disappointed with the
court’s response, but that it felt “really good” to learn
that a group of NFL cheerleaders had stepped forward to support the

“I’ve been frustrated and shocked that no women’s or victims’
groups or even cheerleaders’ organizations have spoken out in support
of Hillaire. I just don’t get it,” he said. “This is a brave
young woman. It’s great that professional cheerleaders are now
supporting her. They don’t even know Hillaire but they know what she’s
going through and what it took for her to do what she did.”

Hillaire and her parents filed the lawsuit against the high school
after school officials in Silsbee, Texas, told Hillaire she had no
choice but to cheer for the man who attacked her.

She was willing to cheer for the team, but when her assailant was at
the free-throw line, and the squad was cheering for him in particular,
she stepped back from the others and crossed her arms in defiance.

Watts described the cheer they wanted her to say. He said, “It
went something like this: ‘Two, four, six-eight-10, come on [player]
put it in.’ Think about that. How does a school official make a rape
victim say something like that to a man who did something so

The accused was charged with rape and pleaded guilty to assault in
2010, but while the matter was still being resolved he continued to
play sports.

In February 2009, when the victim refused to cheer for him, she was
sent home by school officials and later dismissed from the squad for
the remainder of her high school career. The accused student continued
to enjoy the cheers and adulation of other students, parents and
school officials.

“People dismiss the value of cheerleaders as unimportant compared
to the guys,” said Schoenfeld. “It took a lot of guts for
this young woman to take a stand the way she did. She didn’t deserve
to be punished for that. It’s unbelievable in this day and age that
school officials could be so backward thinking about an issue as
important as violence against women and girls.”
Examining Cheerleaders’ Rights

In their lawsuit against the school district, Hillaire and her family
argued that a victim has a constitutionally-protected First Amendment
right to express herself by refusing to cheer for a student accused of

The federal court disagreed and ruled the teen had no free speech
rights because cheerleaders act as agents of the
school–”mouthpieces” is the word the court used–not as an
individual students.

The NFL cheerleaders, offended by the court’s characterization of them
as mere “mouthpieces,” are putting their megaphones to their
mouths to speak out.

I did, when I wrote that Hillaire should have sued under Title IX,
instead of the First Amendment, on the grounds that requiring a
cheerleader to cheer for her rapist is a form of sexual harassment and
thus an act of gender discrimination.

Another former NFL cheerleader, Jeanne Ball, is upset to hear that
there has been so little public support for Hillaire.

“Fortunately, she seems to have strong family support,” Ball

Attorney Watts says Hillaire regrets nothing and is proud of herself
for refusing to cheer and for bringing the lawsuit.

“It was the least she could do to show everyone how she felt not
only about being raped, but also about being so disrespected by school
officials,” he said.

Former cheerleader Schoenfeld could not agree more.

“We don’t want cheerleaders–or any women–to stay quiet about
such things,” she said. “Many of us have daughters now–and
sons–and we want them to have healthy relationships. There’s nothing
healthy about rape and there’s certainly nothing healthy about making
a young woman cheer for her abuser.”

The school’s lawyer did not return a call seeking comments.
Article courtesy of Women’s eNews and Wendy Murphy
Women’s eNews website

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Statistics

April 03, 2011 By: admin Category: Feature Article

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Sexual violence  is not motivated by sexual desire , it is a crime of  violence sexualized and includes: rape, incest, child sexual assault, ritual abuse, date and acquaintance rape, statutory rape, marital or partner rape, sexual exploitation, sexual contact, sexual harassment, exposure, human trafficking and voyeurism. Sexual Violence occurs whenever a person is forced, coerced, and/or manipulated into any unwanted sexual activity.

Rapists use sex as a weapon to dominate and hurt others, and it is a crime



Some statistics on Sexual violence obtained from the Department of Justice include :

An average 233,986 Americans age 12 and older are sexually assaulted each year.

Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.

  • 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. 2 Among all victims, about nine out of ten are female.
  • 1 out of every 33 American men has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in his lifetime. 2 About 10% of all victims are male.
  • Age of sexual assault victims
    • 15% are under age 12.
    • 29% are age 12-17
    • 44% are under age 18
    • 80% are under age 30
    • Ages 12-34 are the highest risk years  
    • Girls ages 16-19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of sexual assault.
  • Estimated persons raped in lifetime by gender and race
    • Women
      • 17.7% of white women
      • 18.8% of African-American women
      • 6.8% of Asian / Pacific Islander women
      • 34.1% of American Indian / Alaskan Native women
      • 24.4% mixed race women
      • 14.6% of Hispanic women
    • Men
      • 2.8% of white men
      • 3.3% of African-American men
      • 4.4% of mixed race men
      • The sample size was too small to estimate for Asian/ Pacific Islander and American Indian / Alaskan Native men

Effects of Rape

Physical Injuries
100% of completed rapes, 39% of attempted rapes, and 17% sexual assaults against females result in injured victims.

  • 33% of victims sustain minor (bruises and chipped teeth) physical injuries
  • 5% of victims sustain major (broken bones and gunshot wounds) injuries
  • 61% of victims sustain undetermined injuries

Only around 36% of injured victims receive medical care.

  • 82% of those cared for use hospital services
  • 55% use physician services
  • 17% use dental services
  • 19% use ambulatory / paramedic services
  • 17% use physical therapy services

Mental Health
Victims of sexual assault are:

  • 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
  • 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
  • 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
  • 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

About 1 in 11 sexual assault victims reported that they suffered some economic loss as a consequence of the crime.

  • The average economic loss (in 1997) was about $200
  • Nearly 7% of victims reported losing time from work.

Reporting to Police

  • There were 90,427 forcible rapes reported to police in 2007.  
  • Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes, with an average of 39% being reported to the police each year.
  • When victims of rape, attempted rape, and sexual assault did not report the crime to the police, the most often cited reasons were:
    • Rape:
      • personal matter (23.3%)
      • fear of reprisal (16.3%)
      • police biased (5.8%)
    • Attempted rape:
      • personal matter (16.8%);
      • fear of reprisal (11.3%);
      • protect offender (9.9%)
    • Completed and attempted sexual assault:
      • personal matter (25.3%);
      • reported to different official (12.4%);
      • fear of reprisal (11.3%)
  • The closer the relationship between the female victim and the offender, the greater the likelihood that the incident will not be reported.  
    • When the offender was a current or former husband or boyfriend, about 75% of all victimizations were not reported to police.
    • When the offender was a friend or acquaintance, an average 71% were not reported.
    • When the offender was a stranger, an average 44% were not reported



  • Almost 2/3 of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.
    • 23% of rapists are an intimate
    • 3% are another relative
    • 38% are a friend or acquaintance
    • 31% are a stranger
    • 6% are unknown
  • Only about 6% of rapists ever serve a day in jail.
  • The average age of an arrested rapist is 31 years old.
    • 0.6% are 17 years old or younger
    • 54.6% are 18 to 29 years old
    • 28.6% are 30 to 39 years old
    • 8.9% are 40 to 49 years old
    • 7.3% are 50 years old or older
  • Marital status of arrested rapists.
    • 22.1% are married
    • 1.2% are widowed
    • 28.5% are divorced
    • 6.2% are separated
    • 42% are never married
  • An average 8% of sexual assaults each year involve the use of a weapon.
    • 2% use a firearm
    • 4% use a knife
    • 2% use another form of weapon
    • 6% are unsure
    • 87% of victims reported the use of physical force only
  • Convicted rapists made up 1.2% of the 272,111 state prisoners released in 1994, and 46% of these released rapists were rearrested within three years for some type of felony or serious misdemeanor
    • 2.5% were rearrested for another rape.
  • In 1999, women accounted for 1 in 50 offenders committing a violent sex offense including rape and sexual assault
    • Nearly 6 in 10 of these women serving time in state prisons have experienced physical or sexual abuse in the past.
  • Offenders in sexual assault murders are about 6 years younger on average than other murderers’
    • Youth under 18 have accounted for about 10% of the sexual assault murders since 1976.