Monday, June 27, 2005

What's wrong with this picture?

I haven't even started working with domestic violence or sexual assault survivors, and already it's difficult. Tonight at the volunteer training we talked about legal issues surrounding domestic violence. One pamphlet we got dealt specifically with immigrant and refugee women and had a section on women who would lose their legal status if they left their husbands or if their husbands reported them to the INS. The consolation we're supposed to give them is "deportation may not follow, would not be immediate, and, in most cases, you would have the opportunity to present your cases to a judge." Great. Also, the mantra of all domestic violence workers seems to be "Leave!", but at the same time women are more likely to be murdered after leaving a domestic partner than at any other time in their lives. I'll be advising them to leave for the sake of their own safety, yet increasing their chance of being murdered.

At one point the woman leading the training asked how many of us had experienced stalking or domestic violence, and she and about a quarter of the room raised their hands. My first reaction was surprise that they seemed so comfortable admitting this, and then I had to give myself a mental whack for even thinking it was something they should be embarassed about. If we didn't think these things were something to be secretive about, to be ashamed of, maybe the problems wouldn't happen as often or be as horrible.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Summer in the city

This week I officially started my YWCA internship, and I have to say the most exciting part so far is just being downtown. My bus got me there half an hour early the first day, so I just walked around the streets for a while (which, along with being more interesting, seemed like a better idea than standing still on the street for half an hour.) Driving to the Carpenter Center I had always wanted to get out of the car and look at the shops, and now I finally get my wish. I left workaround nine that evening, and it was a pleasure to wait for my bus with the warm air and the sun setting pink and gold behind a hotel.

I like the way strangers strike up conversations at bus stops. Back in the suburbs the only communication I have with my fellow travellers is when some guy honks his horn as he drives by as I'm walking home from work or the library. The center of the city is a place of contrasts - beautiful old government buildings and law offices next door to dilapidated hair-braiding and clothing shops with metal grates that are lowered in front of the storefront at closing time. The people match. The white people with suits and briefcases won't even look at you when you pass on the sidewalk, but the blacks usually offer at least a nod and often an actual exchange of pleasantries. It makes me kind of ashamed to look like the people with briefcases.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

I wish I were in Copenhagen this week. Midsummer's Eve in Scandinavia sounds fabulous - fireworks, dancing, bonfires in people's backyards. We need more holidays that involve bonfires. I've decided I should have solstice parties when I grow up.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Wild Land, Wild Love

In the "for sale" aisle of the Richmond Public Library I realized why the covers of romance novels creep me out: the people are never smiling. Some of the more modern ones feature couples with at least mildly pleasant expressions, but not the bodice-ripper types with the grotesquely muscled man and the women with very historically inaccurate eyeshadow, usually posed in front of a waterfall or prairie or herd of kangaroos or other scenic feature. Do they have to look so grim about it? I would think that the very act of appearing on a novel cover in a state of undress with a herd of kangaroos would be enough to make one laugh.