digging up the roots of gender-based violence

Category Archives: Uncategorized

Brad Ausmus and Men Joking about Beating Their Wives

Yesterday, Detroit Tigers’ General Manager Brad Ausmus was asked what he does when he gets home after a lossImage (the Tigers, if you haven’t been/don’t care to pay attention, have been in a tailspin from the top of the leader board for the last few weeks), he said:

I beat my wife.”

Then he said: “I’m just kidding,” and “Sorry if I offended anyone.”

He was quick to say it. He was also quick to say he was kidding and faux-apologize.

What we find funny, what we joke about, often indicates our values. In particular, sexist humor is likely to be appreciated by folks who hold sexist values. The quickness with which he answered is also telling. Why did that even cross his mind as an answer to the question? Men who don’t think about beating their partners tend not to, you know, think about it as an answer to a question at work. Why was he so quick to make this “joke”? Why would anyone be so quick to make such a joke, unless doing it actually crossed their mind? And, even if Brad Ausmus had the best of jocular intentions, thousands of people heard him, batterers and survivors among them. Which group is bolstered and supported by his “joke”? Certainly not the battered women he claimed to not want to make light of, but rather the batterers being validated by those words.

Batterers and rapists do actually believe that most dudes are like them, even though we know they are not. And when jokes like this are told, and other people laugh at those jokes, batterers and rapists have their belief that “everyone does it” confirmed. Further, and even more awful, survivors feel more isolated, more to blame and less likely to seek help.

Let me start this next bit by saying that I have no idea if Brad Ausmus is a batterer, or if Liz Ausmus is in danger from him.

But, hypothetically. If a batterer were to be asked, on camera, about how he manages some feelings when he gets home, and he answered exactly the way Brad Ausmus answered, we can be assured that it was a direct threat to his partner.

Batterers don’t make threats they aren’t willing to follow through on, and they can be clever in how they deliver those threats. I once worked with a woman who walked out to her car from the shelter to discover a dozen red roses in the front seat with a big note in the middle that said, “I’m sorry, baby, please come home.” She was terrified, because if the man who was hurting her could put roses in her car, what else could he put there? How did he get in her car when she had the only keys, and how did he know where to find her? Batterers will often use tactics that look innocuous or even sweet and kind to the casual observer, but are clearly threatening to their partner. Passing off “I beat my wife” as a joke leads us to overlook the very real danger in such a comment.

Ausmus’ joke wasn’t insensitive or in bad taste. At best, it was sexist mockery of the real harm batterers do. At worst, it was a credible threat of violence. Liz Ausmus, I hope you are safe. If you need help, you can contact HAVEN any time, day or night, at 248-334-1274.

Cristy Cardinal is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has worked in the field of ending gender-based violence since 1997. Cristy has three kids, all of whom she is happy to share (gross or funny or weird, whatever) stories about any time. She is an avid fabric artist in addition to being a loudmouth feminist. Cristy is the 2012 winner of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence Wave of Change Award, honoring excellence in social change and prevention of gender-based violence.

Ask an Educator: IPV in the Trans* Community

JM Asks:

Hello everyone. First, I recently found the UPROOT forum and have found so many of the postings so insightful and meaningful. Thank you for creating this wonderful space and maintaining this fantastic resource. The focus of my questions today are on the experiences of individuals who identify within the trans* community and intimate partner violence. To be up-front I am a white, upper SES, heterosexual, cismale, and cisman. I have significant amounts of social privilege, I do not identify within the trans* community and I apologize in advance for my ignorance or if I say anything problematic throughout this post. If anyone feels that my postings are problematic in anyway I would value any feedback and thank you for taking the time to review this post.

It has been well documented that individuals who identify within the transgender community or the larger trans* community often face significantly higher rates of violence compared to other individuals who identify within other gender identities. Individuals who identify within the trans* community are more likely to experience sexual violence, other forms of intimate partner violence, violence at the hands of law enforcement, and more regular harassment. I’m currently a graduate student studying social work and I have been involved in the gender violence movement for approximately 5 years. From my limited experiences it also seems individuals who identify within the trans* community are more likely to face discrimination from service providers and law-enforcement when seeking services or assistance. With the above being my current level of, hopefully accurate understanding, I was hoping to ask the following questions.

1. Within your positions as educators have you encountered or been aware of individuals who identify within the trans* community experiencing transphobia or other forms of discrimination when seeking assistance with IPV? Do you feel this is an issue in Southeast Michigan?

2. Do you have recommendations for intimate partner violence service organizations that are working to better serve individuals who identify within the transgender community? Especially organizations that have traditionally worked within the gender binary?

3. Are you aware of any prevention efforts that have been effective in preventing IPV within the trans* community? Personally, do you feel that universal interventions can be effective or should prevention efforts (such as education efforts) focus on specific identities? Within my limited experience it seems like a lot of education efforts or other prevention tactics still work within the gender binary, and are also pretty heteronormative, and whenever additional identities are mentioned they are not paid a great deal of attention or they are put into their own separate section, which seems potentially problematic as well.

4. Do the prevention efforts taking place at HAVEN work to address the issue of IPV within the trans* community? If yes, have you met any challenges?

5. Do you have any advice for other community educators engaging in gender-based violence prevention work who are working to better address the issue of IPV within the trans* community? Do you have concerns about individuals who do not identify within the trans* community speaking about the issue of IPV when it affects individuals who identify within the trans* community?

I apologize for the length of this post and know that many of these questions are very specific and you may not be able to or feel comfortable answering them, for any number of reasons. I am currently engaging in community education based violence prevention work and am researching and writing on this topic and I would appreciate any insight you have. Thank you very much for your time and for all the work you do. Thanks again!

KW responds:

I want to start this with a deeply expressed apology with how long it has taken to respond to your questions. Your post was very complete and thought out and I’m excited that you’re taking an interest in the material you asked about. The end of the school year is extremely busy for us and while I wanted to give your questions the time they deserve, it also somewhat slipped my mind and agenda. Hopefully it is not too late to respond!

You’re absolutely right that trans* folks are at a disproportionate risk for hate related violence. Trans* women (particularly women of color) are at a greater and disproportionate risk for hate related crimes, murder, domestic violence, sexual assault, police brutality, more severe physical damage and hospitalization in instances of IPV, homelessness and housing/employment discrimination at the intersections of racial discrimination, trans* phobia and misogyny. Over 60% of hate crimes are perpetrated against trans* women of color and 14 percent of IPV homicides in 2012 were trans* gender women of color.

* Contact info@ncavp.org, for related statistical information from the NCAVP 2012 report and supported research conducted by the National Black Justice Coalition, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs is an excellent resource for many of the questions that you asked.

I will do my best to answer as many of your questions as I can below…..

As prevention educators who primarily work in schools throughout Oakland County, we are less likely to come in contact directly with victims (or victim services), although it does sometimes happen. An excellent resource for this kind of information would likely come from Equality Michigan, who provides victim services and advocacy throughout Michigan.

How we can better serve the trans* community is an excellent question and I think this is a question that more people are beginning to ask. We are a long way from being as educated, sensitive and as inclusive as we need to be in order to provide quality services to trans* victims of violence. Changes need to be made on the intuitional, community and individual levels in order to facilitate the type of space needed to support trans* survivors. I know that there are things under way at Equality Michigan and there are likely things happening at the micro level in community involvement that I am unaware of. At HAVEN, we have formed an LGBTQ+ caucus that is formulating a strategic plan to implement change at the organizational level. This is a rough recommendation to answer the question you more directly asked:

1. Institutional Policy Change – support for trans* inclusive policy at organizations needs to come from and be reinforced by the top down.

2. Organizational Training – Consistent training about how to address and support trans* survivors must be institutionalized and consistent to address turn-over rates – so that all staff stay educated and informed. You can access resources for these kinds of trainings through Equality Michigan and Affirmations Community Center.

3. Hire trans* people and offer trans* inclusive health care at the organization.

4. Implement practices that demonstrate a concerted effort for outreach to the trans* community.

5. There are more (and better) recommendations and I would be more than willing to stay in contact as our caucus works to develop strategies in collaboration with other organizations in making HAVEN more inclusive of the overall LGBTQ+ communities.

I am not aware of any specific prevention efforts that have been effective in preventing IPV within the trans* community but that does not mean that it is not happening somewhere in SE Michigan. An excellent resource for prevention efforts within the LGBTQ+ community is the Northwest Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse. In our current programming we are working to make our curriculum more LGBTQ+ inclusive and this will be a part of our continued evolution. I think that this question would really require a whole conversation, because while I do believe there is merit and legitimacy within universal interventions, I also believe that the trans* (and LGBTQ+) community has specific elements that are important to address and center. Currently, efforts are being made through community collaboration between multiple organizations in SE Michigan. We are currently a part of offering a Relationship Skills Class that is specific to the LGBTQ+ community being hosted at Affirmations Community Center.

I don’t personally have general concerns with cisgender people speaking on behalf of trans* survivors. I think allyship is important and we need more cisgender and heteronormative folks speaking up in an effort to leverage certain privileges afforded. There are, of course, more direct concerns when the leveraging of privilege is not done with accountability. That said, there is great value in cisgender people lifting up the voices of trans* folks (and other margined people) in an effort to lend recognition to work that is already being done. My advice is simplistic in that any ally should do their own work to educate themselves about trans* experiences and inclusive language, go to and support trans* events, listen to the experiences of trans* people, donate money to trans* organizations and efforts when able, and most importantly educate other cisgender folks about the issues that trans* folks experience in the face of discrimination and violence.

I understand that this was not as in depth as you might have preferred and it sounds like you may already have insight into many of the points that were brought up.

Kristopher (Kole) Wyckhuys is one hopeful and optimistic voice within an intersectional social justice movement. As a Prevention Education Specialist at HAVEN, his focus is redefining healthy masculinity and works to engage men in ending gender-based violence. After graduating college he served in the military where he trained as a Combat Medic and Mental Health Specialist. Kole is an Iraq war veteran, NPTI certified personal trainer, and a trained massage therapist in addition to his work as a prevention educator. He envisions a collective consciousness that embraces individual and social responsibility, accountability, and equanimity. He shares his home with a 3 year old pup named Peanut the Pitbull.

Accountability is a Process, and I am In It: The Finances of Forging Justice

Necessarily left out of Emi’s excellent recount of the ways that members of the NOMAS council silenced and intimidated her and other women of color at Forging Justice was the concern about conference funding. This was left out because it is confusing, and without substantial explanation, could have opened the door for detractors to discredit her. I did not, and do not, want to provide that opportunity.

I entered into the conference with the understanding that NOMAS was going to cover any expenses that were not met by conference registrations. The NOMAS council entered the conference with the understanding that when they provided the seed money at the beginning of the planning, the bulk of their financial obligation had been met.

This is the place we were in when the co-chairs of the NOMAS council approached me on Thursday to cut off the livestream when Emi spoke on the panel. I believed that they did, in fact, have financial leverage over me and the conference. They had no such assumption of leverage beyond partnership for the conference.

On Saturday, I overheard a conversation wherein I learned that NOMAS believed their financial obligation to be met. I did not feel prepared or able to bring up my understanding in that moment. Perhaps I should’ve anyway. I did, however, send a message to three of the council members a few hours later explaining my understanding and asked that they discuss it at their council meeting the following day.

They expressed shock at my guess of the expenses, but agreed to discuss it. When we met on Monday to talk about it collectively, what we all admitted to was a profound and destructive lack of communication. I was not diligent in seeking clarity with NOMAS about the funding for the conference, which led to Emi Koyama being silenced on the livestream and our community believing that NOMAS was holding HAVEN financially hostage to control the situation. Had I sought more clarity, I may have felt empowered to say no when I was approached by the NOMAS co-chairs to cut off the livestream because I would’ve known that money was not leverage they held.

While I firmly maintain that NOMAS had more relative power in this situation, and as such, they were responsible to make sure I understood what exactly they were providing, I did not make enough effort to have concrete communication about finances with the council. I proceeded with carte blanche to make the conference we wanted to have. I could’ve done better in communicating with the council from the beginning in regard to our financial arrangement and our expenses as we moved forward.

I shared this information as soon as I had it with the women closest to the situation, Emi Koyama included. However, I did not take the information public right away. I have an obligation to the organization I work for, and ultimately my accountability regarding finances is to my boss, our CEO and the board of directors. It would have been irresponsible of me to share this information publicly before I had discussed the issue with them. I was not able to have that meeting until today, which is why I am sharing this now.

The day after the conference, I also made the following tweet:

A lesson I learned from @emikoyama this week & wish I'd heard 6 months ago: get the money first. Sigh.

A lesson I learned from @emikoyama this week & wish I’d heard 6 months ago: get the money first. Sigh.

What I was trying to say is exactly what I have said here: that if I had taken care of the money upfront, this current mess might not have even happened, and wow, did I screw up. Twitter being Twitter, with little room for nuance and good faith, that tweet was heard very differently. I want to thank the person who brought this to my attention, and I apologize for misrepresenting the situation, however unintentionally it may have been. I also apologize to NOMAS for furthering any animus against them that was borne of that tweet.

I aspire to be accountable, which by necessity means I make mistakes. I resolve to continue to work on this issue with NOMAS, who have committed to making things right financially. I resolve also to be more direct around financial arrangements in the future, to be completely transparent and have the money attended to before any event moves forward. I also welcome suggestions for continued accountability around this issue.

sincerely (and I mean that),

Cristy Cardinal

Cristy Cardinal is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has worked in the field of ending gender-based violence since 1997. Cristy has three kids, all of whom she is happy to share (gross or funny or weird, whatever) stories about any time. She is an avid fabric artist in addition to being a loudmouth feminist. Cristy is the 2012 winner of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence Wave of Change Award, honoring excellence in social change and prevention of gender-based violence.