20 years after the Violence Against Women Act, how far have we come?

 

President Barack Obama issued a proclamation today recognizing the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act and calling “upon men and women of all ages, communities, organizations and all levels of government to work in collaboration to end violence against women.”

The proclamation comes a day after TMZ.com released video footage of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his then-girlfriend/now-wife Janay Palmer out cold in an elevator — video footage that prompted the Ravens to terminate Rice’s and prompted the NFL to suspend him indefinitely. That sounds reasonable, except that the incident back in March and in July NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell only suspended Rice for two games. (Rice was originally charged with felony assault but the charges were dropped when Palmer refused to testify against him.)

Originally, the only video footage made public showed the moments after the elevator doors opened and Rice dragged the unconscious Palmer part of the way out of the elevator and then left her laying in a heap on the floor. The video released this week by TMZ, taken by a camera inside the elevator, shows the brutal punch to the face that knocked her out.

As President Obama said in his proclamation today, it was 20 years ago that “our nation came together to declare our commitment to end violence against women.” The VAWA “created a vital network of services for victims,” expanded the number of shelters and rape crisis centers across the country, and established a national hotline, the proclamation says. The VAWA also “imrpoved our criminal justice system and provided specialized training to law enforcement … . It spurred new state laws and protections and changed the way people think about domestic abuse … .”

But watching that video of Ray Rice punching Janay Palmer and considering the NFL’s initial lackluster response, it doesn’t seem like we’ve made much progress toward that goal.

Add in some statistical information, and it’s even more discouraging.

According to UNWomen.org, the website for the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, a global review of available data conducted in 2013 (World Health Organization, Global and Regional Estimates of Violence against Women) shows that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence . But some national studies show that up to 70 percent of women have experience sexual or physical violence from an intimate partner.

The UNWomen website goes on to cite The World Health Organization’s World Report on Violence and Health, which says that in Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, intimate partner violence accounts for between 40 and 70 per cent of female murder victims.

President Obama says that he was “proud to renew our pledge to our mothers and daughters by reauthorizing VAWA and extending its protections” last year. And while the VAWA has “provided hope, safety and a new chance at life for women and children across our nation,” the president acknowledges “we still have more work to do.”

“Too many women continue to live in fear in their own homes, too many victims still know the pain of abuse, and too many families have had to mourn the loss of their loved ones. It has to end — because even one is too many.”

Absolutely. But in the LGBT community we have to take it a step forward and remember that women are not the only victims of domestic violence, and men are not the only abusers.

According to a “fact sheet” published online by the Center for American Progress, 1 out of 4 to 1 out of 3 same-sex relationships has experienced domestic violence. And domestic abuse violence victims in same-sex relationships face threats that their abuser will “out” them at work or to family, some face the threat of having their children taken away, and some are even afraid of doing damage to the LGBT rights movement by admitting that domestic violence happens in our community.

These and other reasons make LGBT domestic violence victims more reluctant to report such violence to police, and leaves them feeling isolated, alone and helpless.

President Obama is right. We’ve got a long way to go. We in the LGBT community have to make sure we are part of the effort against domestic violence, not just in the country as a whole, but in our own community — our own homes — too.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING: Donna Summer dead at 63

TMZ is reporting that disco diva Donna Summer passed away Thursday morning at the age of 63. After a battle with cancer, she succumbed to the disease while in Florida. From TMZ:

Donna Summer — the Queen of Disco — died this morning after a battle with cancer … TMZ has learned.

We’re told Summer was in Florida at the time of her death. She was 63 years old.

Sources close to Summer tell us … the singer was trying to keep the extent of her illness under wraps. We spoke to someone who was with Summer a couple of weeks ago … who says she didn’t seem too bad.

In fact, we’re told she was focused on trying to finish up an album she had been working on.

A winner of five Grammy awards, she is synonymous with disco music of the ’70s often introducing innovative sounds to dance music with longtime collaborator and producer Giorgio Moroder. Key disco hits include the groundbreaking “I Feel Love,” “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls.”

In the early ’80s as disco simmered and AIDS grew, she was often criticized for rumored statements that evoked homophobia. She allegedly had commented that AIDS was God’s punishment on gays for their lifestyle. The rumors haunted her career even as she denied them.

With a slight resurgence in the mid-’80s, she found renewed footing both on the charts and with gay fans. With hits such as “She Works Hard for the Money” and “This Time I Know It’s For Real,” she returned to the dance charts and the turntable of gay club DJs.

Summer’s last album, Crayons, was released in 2008 and peaked at 17 on the Billboard 200. She is survived by her husband and producer Bruce Sudano and three daughters, Mimi, Brooklyn and Amanda.

Below is video of Summer singing “Last Dance” at the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize Concert.

—  Rich Lopez

WATCH: Mavs owner Mark Cuban says NBA will see openly gay player in 3-5 years

Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban, the gay-friendly owner of the Dallas Mavericks, told TMZ recently that he believes the NBA will see an openly gay player before the league sees a female head coach.

Cuban noted that Nancy Lieberman coached the Mavericks’ D-League team, the Texas Legends, last year. But he said coaching in the NBA isn’t one of Lieberman’s goals. And although he thinks it will definitely happen eventually, Cuban said it will take some time for a female coach to work her way up through the NBA ranks. Then the topic shifted to the question of a gay player. Here’s a transcript of the exchange between Cuban and TMZ host Harvey Levin:

LEVIN: What’s going to happen first, an openly gay player in the NBA or a female coach?

CUBAN: An openly gay player.

LEVIN: You think it’s going to happen soon?

CUBAN: I think within the next three to five years absolutely.

LEVIN: Is there talk about that, where people are saying, “Hey, we’ve got to stop this kind of image that we have that we’re intolerant.” Are people talking about that within teams?

CUBAN: Not so much because I don’t think there’s really the perception that we are intolerant. I think the only issues we’ve had is with some fallback and some old-school type language that’s derogatory to gays. So there are certain words that I think were accepted five or 10 years ago that guys are starting to recognize you can’t use any longer, and that hasn’t been a problem. So I think it will be more of a media sensation when somebody comes out than it will be a player issue.

The exchange begins at about the 9-minute mark in the video below.

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—  John Wright

People Magazine tried for buzz on Chely Wright's coming out — but TMZ happened

That buzz in your ear is probably that of country singer Chely Wright’s coming out. Although you weren’t supposed to hear that until Friday from the newsstands. People Magazine was trying to create buzz about this week’s issue in order to create a big reveal. The only thing is, TMZ got a hold of it and now, it’s out. Or rather, Wright is.

The Advocate, Salon plus every celeb site and blog are already all over it. The thing is, we got the impression that People had wraps on someone who’s a little more, um, superstar-ish. We have no doubt that Chely Wright is a big deal — in country music — but admittedly, there were a couple of us in today’s editorial meeting asking, “Who?” Speculation on the web was figuring the likes of Queen Latifah, Kevin Spacey or Anderson Cooper, all who have been under the scrutinizing eye of gaydar. People’s handling of this seemed a little over the top. Had they said nothing at all, they probably would have gotten the result they wanted.

—  Rich Lopez