Category Archives: Service / Advocacy

A Story of Women in Florida

by ZontaDoris

We recently published a post on Hidden Figures, the book and movie about the African-American women who worked for NASA and its predecessor agencies in the 1940’s and 1950’s. The surprise we club members had was magnified many times over by millions of Americans learning that brilliant minority women had contributed mightily as mathematicians and computer scientists to our country’s aeronautical and space explorations.

These unsung women from impoverished and socially restricted circumstances, reminded us of this quote from the Homegoing book by Y’aa Gyasi on 300 years of history of two families originating in Ghana.

“We believe the one who has the power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So, when you study history, you must always ask yourself, whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth?”

FWFA_2017-07-17_1459The idea of finding and capturing missing voices in this quote emerged for me recently as I learned about the Florida Philanthropic Network (FPN) and its affinity group–Florida Women’s Funding Alliance. The purpose of the FWFA–funders banded together under the FPN–is to “convene, connect, educate, leverage and elevate Florida women’s funders in order to elevate and empower leadership, expertise and investments in women’s issues.”

The end result is to help women and girls thrive in Florida. 

In order to improve our strengths and reduce our vulnerabilities as a gender, we need to know more about the status of women in our state.

FWFA is helping us understand the story behind women’s well-being in Florida.

The FWFA commissioned studies on the status of women in Florida, looking at four measures of women’s economic security:

  • health care coverage
  • poverty and gender wage gap
  • college attainment and
  • business creation.

 

FWFA enlisted the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, featured in this blog in September 2016, to do the research.

A full report and one-page infographs on the four topics were released only a few months ago. I am lifting sections of a one-page infograph available under Key Findings on the Women’s Foundation of Florida’s website and from the one- page infographs for this post.

Best news first on Business Creation

Women in Florida own more businesses and are growing more businesses than women do in most other states. In fact, Florida is 5th in the country on this measure. We are clearly entrepreneurial!

women_Florida_businesses_2017-07-17_1757

Poverty and the Wage Gap 

We are in the bottom third of states for women 18 and older living in poverty. Five Florida counties have abysmal rates of poverty for women. If the gender wage gap were corrected, the poverty rate would be reduced by more than 50% for all working women and especially so for working single mothers. Wage gaps matter for one’s current standard of living and in retirement as Social Security benefits and savings stream from one’s earnings history.

women_poverty_wage_gap_2017-07-17_1820

Attaining College Degrees

With regard to educational attainment, women in Florida trail women in other states.

women_FL_education_2017-07-17_1222

Women’s Health Care Coverage in Florida 

The worst measure is how women in this state are supported, or not, to maintain or regain their health.

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This situation makes me SCREAM in frustration! We are last in the country–50th!–on the percentage of uninsured women under age 65. In fact, 1/5 of all uninsured adults in the country reside in Florida. We also have big disparities in women’s accessing health care coverage depending on their race and ethnicity.

This gap exists because our Governor and Legislature choose repeatedly not to expand Medicaid eligibility. They wish to go the other way to reduce access to Medicaid benefits. The working poor don’t earn enough to get subsidies to purchase their health insurance and earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

The outcome: these folks delay health care until they have to go to the hospital emergency room for care. They have no one negotiating lower rates for them with the hospital so they pay top dollar for the most expensive medical care.

Consequences of not having health care coverage: women (and men) suffer from undiagnosed illness and injuries. Their functioning is eroded or slashed dramatically. Women (and men) die prematurely. Women (and men) teeter on the edge of bankruptcy. Many have to file for medical debt protection because they have no other way of digging out of the financial hole they have fallen into.

We enable our elected officials to ignore the scope and depth of the problem when we don’t speak up loudly and consistently to expand health care access.

TAKE THREE STEPS TO ACT!

1. Learn from work sponsored by organizations such as the Florida Women’s Funding Alliance in the Florida Philanthropy Network. Follow their Facebook page to learn from new studies and reports. 

2. Stay informed on consumer health issues in Florida by subscribing to the Florida CHAIN (Community Health Action Information Network) and following its Facebook page

3. Use your voice to say we can, and should, do better as a state. Our state representatives and senators are only an office visit, phone call, or email away. We elect them to help Floridians thrive. Call or visit them today, tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year.  Access our representatives in the U.S. Congress here.  

It’s on all of us to make Florida a better home for women and girls, and their families. 

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Scrapbook picture from Victorian Lady at Pixabay

Views expressed in this blog post are mine and may not reflect the stance of the Zonta Club of Pinellas County or Zonta International. — Doris Reeves-Lipscomb

Women and IPV in Pinellas County: What Can We Do?

by ZontaDoris

Do you know anyone with IPV? Many people do not know the acronym even though IPV is a serious, preventable public health problem in our community. IPV is short for Intimate Partner Violence, a reference term for aggressive behaviors that occur between partners in life such as husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, or gay/lesbian couples. The two people have to reside together or have cohabited before but not necessarily be married to each other. Most of the time, it is a male (87%) who abuses his partner.

According to an abstract summarizing data from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey published in 2011 by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, slightly more than one out of five women (22.3%) reported severe physical violence by an intimate partner. Severe physical violence by an intimate partner might include “being hit with something hard, being kicked or beaten, or being burned on purpose.” This statistic does not include other IPV behaviors that may be physical, sexual, economic or psychological in nature.

In Florida Statutes Chapter 741, issues involving intimate partner violence are labeled Domestic Violence (DV). The terms seem interchangeable to laypeople like me but depending on the context in which they are used, one or the other is preferred or required. It’s domestic violence in the court systems. Victim advocates referring to the wide variation of DV often use Intimate Partner Violence.

This distinction is one that I learned since I started attending the Pinellas County Domestic Violence Task Force a year ago. Donna Lancaster and I committed to be the connectors for Zonta Pinellas with the PCDVTF. We attend their bi-monthly meetings as active listeners and learners, often thinking about how we in Zonta can ally with the Task Force to prevent violence in the home, support domestic violence survivors and their families, and educate others–including policy makers–about the nature of domestic violence challenges in our county. We can all help in some way!

from the 2017 St. Pete Pride guide found at  http://bit.ly/2spXmdr

from the 2017 St. Pete Pride guide at
http://bit.ly/2spXmdr

For instance, we’ll help DV victim advocates from law enforcement agencies and the Family Resource Center staff the DV Prevention Tent on June 25, Sunday, at the St. Pete Pride Street Festival. We’ll interact with children and adults to encourage the development of peaceful behaviors.

I am tickled to see outstanding examples of community-led, trickle-up collaborations to help improve our quality of life in Florida. We don’t need state mandates as much as we need people to come together as advocates, caregivers, parents, educators, law enforcement, counselors, and DV survivors to find solutions that lead to coordinated community care for DV victims and their families and accountability for the batterers.

Look at the Coordinated Community Wheel below to get a sense of the intricacy and power of various systems working in unity to help DV victims and survivors.

coordinated_community_wheel_2017-06-13_1745

Developed by: Domestic Violence Institute of Michigan PO BOX 130107, Ann Arbor, MI 48113-0107 (313)769-6334 Inspired and adapted from the “Power & Control Wheel” developed by the Domestic Violence Intervention Project, 202 East Superiour Street , Duluth, MN 55802 (218)722-4134

When we don’t know something, we tend to simplify it to what we do know. But as the above wheel attests, social service providers–such as CASA and the Haven in Pinellas County–are a valuable but singular entity working to reduce IPV and serve IPV victims. It takes many systems, independently constructed, led and managed, to coordinate their activities to identify and prevent IPV, as well as serve IPV-stricken victims and their families, and push for batterer accountability when home violence occurs.

I saw this wheel in the recently published Pinellas County Intimate Partner Fatality Review Report for 2016. The Task Force, comprised of representatives from the above systems to coordinate and regularly improve service delivery to help IPV victims thrive in life, has a Fatality Review Committee that studies IPV situations resulting in death in Pinellas County. They examine what happened in each situation, whether the victim or batterer had interacted previously with social services, health, or justice systems, and whether family members or friends were aware of the potential for violence. All these bits of knowledge and contact could show missed opportunities and, therefore, ways to prevent abuse from happening in other households in the future.

The Fatality Review Report for 2016 also gave me these important points.

IPV including the ultimate harm–death at the hands of another–can happen to anyone. Race, age, sexual orientation, religion, gender and socioeconomic status do not insulate women, or men, from IPV. The eight IPV victims who died in 2016 in our county ranged in age from 22 to 87 and represented all walks of life. One was a 58 year old man knifed to death by his girlfriend.

Three factors prevent women from leaving abusive situations: fear, finances, and children.

The breadth of what domestic violence centers do in Florida. Not only do they provide safe residence for a small percentage of IPV victims, they also offer “safety planning, relocation assistance, counseling resources, and assistance with filing injunctions for protections” to stop the harm from happening again.

When guns are in the house, IPV victims and their abusers are more likely to die. Guns were used 44% of the time in IPV situations involving victim death.  Guns were used  in 89% of the IPV homicides/suicides in Pinellas County in 2016.

Court-ordered anger management counseling for batterers is not the same as, nor is it as effective as court-ordered and monitored Batterers Intervention Program (BIP) participation for  abusers. 

batterers_anger_manage_tabl

from the 2016 Pinellas County Fatality Review Report

The sad news is that from 2000-2016, the courts did not require or refer batterers to BIP in 90% of the cases. BIP is the only treatment shown by research to lower recidivism by IPV abusers. So we are missing two opportunities to lower the frequency of IPV.

The Fatality Review Committee’s recommendations, on pages 7 & 8 in the report, for action by law enforcement, the State Attorney offices, and Clerk of the Court to improve services and accountability could be done fairly easily. The Domestic Violence Task Force endorsed the Fatality Review Committee’s recommendations for adoption. Some of these recommendations can be achieved locally while others require state-level policy or budgeting changes. One recommendation speaks to the media’s responsibility to change its coverage to include more methods for preventing IPV and promoting victim safety.

Take heart…and action. Advocates must work together to inform and encourage local and state policy makers to strengthen our systemic responses to Intimate Partner Violence.  We have the power as citizens to make things different.

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Picture of woman from Pixabay

Views expressed in this blog post are mine and may not reflect the stance of the Zonta Club of Pinellas County or Zonta International. — Doris Reeves-Lipscomb

Wear Orange on June 2-3 to Honor Gun Violence Victims and Spark Change

by ZontaDoris

Have you heard? 

National Gun Violence Awareness Day is Friday, June 2.

Kathleen McGrory, staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, recently interviewed Michelle Gajda, Florida chapter leader of the advocacy group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Gajda explained that the national Wear Orange campaign is intended to end gun violence and save lives.

McGrory reported that “Florida will host more Wear Orange events than any other state — a deliberate attempt to ‘highlight the magnitude of the gun violence epidemic.'” (Gajda)

A horrifyingly high percentage of deaths from Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)/Domestic Violence (DV) happens when assailants shoot their partners. From the 2016 Fatality Review report by the Pinellas County Domestic Violence Task Force (which we will feature later in June in this blog), we learned that

FIREARMS were the LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH in Pinellas County IPV/DV cases 44% of the time, which is far more than knives (used 30% of the time) or strangulation (12% of the time).

In IPV/DV cases in 2016 involving a homicide/suicide in the home analyzed by the Task Force, an OVERRIDING MAJORITY–89% of the Pinellas County homicide/suicide cases reviewed by the Task Force involved a firearm.

AS INSTRUMENTS OF DEATH, GUNS ARE WAY TOO EFFICIENT AND EFFECTIVE. (caps and bold are mine)

Additionally, the report notes that while:

“Federal Statute prevents anyone convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor from possessing or purchasing a firearm, in Pinellas County, many people charged with domestic battery are placed in a diversion program which does not qualify as a conviction, thus allowing them to possess firearms.”

WHAT IS THAT ABOUT? The net impact is that while we try to hold batterers accountable and help them learn better ways to manage their anger and behavior in domestic relationships, because they are not charged with a crime, THEY CAN KEEP THEIR GUNS CLOSE BY, thereby increasing the likelihood that if they lapse and abuse their partner again, death could result for the person they abuse and anyone else who happens to be present. 

TO SUMMARIZE, IPV/DV GUN VIOLENCE IS UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL IN PINELLAS COUNTY.

Wear Orange events in Tampa Bay will be held on June 2 and June 3  as follows:

  • June 2, Candlelight vigil, Curtis Hixon Park, 600 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa, 8:00 PM
  • June 3, St. Pete Wear Orange Party for Peace, Gladden Park, 3901 30th Avenue N, St. Petersburg, 10:00 AM
  • June 3, Orange KISS: Keep It Safe & Smart, The Portico, 1001 N. Florida Avenue, Tampa, 2:00 PM

The Zonta Club of Pinellas County supports the Wear Orange goals.

WE WILL BE IN ST. PETERSBURG ON SATURDAY MORNING. PLEASE JOIN US!

We will participate in our customized orange T-shirts to honor IPV/DV victims and show our support for IPV/DV survivors and our bonds with Zonta Club members in Macedonia and Albania. They held their event early in May to stop violence against women.

macdeonia_18489883_1340513759372094_765197073841635310_o

 

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Views expressed in this blog post are mine and may not reflect the stance of the Zonta Club of Pinellas County or Zonta International. — Doris Reeves-Lipscomb