Grantee & Partner News

April 12, 2018

Domestic abusers: Dangerous for women — and lethal for cops

Grantee News From Fuller Project:

Linda Pope faced a flood of red and blue lights as she arrived at the hospital on the night her husband was killed.

Cincinnati Police Officer Daniel Pope had been shot in the head while trying to serve a domestic violence warrant on a 20-year-old man who fled the scene and shot himself. Now, as Linda sat in the hospital exam room being told her husband didn’t survive, it felt like the walls were closing in.

Pope lost her husband just five days before their seven-year wedding anniversary on Dec. 6, 1997. To her, he is 35 years old forever.

“You never forget. You never stop hurting. The pain becomes a little bit less sharp, and it dulls over time. But you never stop loving them. You never stop missing them. You never stop wondering what would have been, what could have been,” she says.

Pope learned a tragic lesson that is still playing out 20 years later: Domestic abusers aren’t just dangerous for women — they are also deadly for cops.

In 2017, more officers were shot responding to domestic violence than any other type of firearm-related fatality, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. From 1988 to 2016, 136 officers were killed while responding to domestic disturbances such as family arguments, FBI data show. By comparison, 80 were killed during a drug-related arrest in the same period.

And in just the first few months of this year, six officers have died in domestic violence-related shootings. One of them is Officer Justin Billa.

The first time Erin Billa met Justin, they were 5 years old. In her middle school scrapbook, she circled his name, with the word “cutie” written next to it. She never dreamed that nearly 20 years later, they’d get married. She never imagined that she would lose him.

It was almost 10 p.m. on Feb. 20. Fonda Poellnitz, 58, was dead, and her ex-husband Robert Hollie was a wanted man in the domestic violence shooting. When Officer Billa reported to Hollie’s home in Mobile, Ala., shots rang out. Billa was rushed to the hospital and a SWAT team moved in, finding Hollie had killed himself.

Billa, 27, later died at the hospital. He’d been an officer for just two years.

“I literally felt like my heart was broken in a million pieces,” Erin Billa says. The man who came home with flowers and gave her the 1-year-old son who looks just like him was never coming back. “I love you, too,” were his last words to her.

On March 28, they would have celebrated their third wedding anniversary.

More: Domestic violence ‘code of silence’ contributes to prevalence across races, classes

More: Safety plan is key to escaping domestic abuse, which can be psychological or emotional

More: Advocates see opening for tougher gun control laws for those guilty of domestic violence

 A dangerous pattern

The pattern of repeated abuse makes domestic violence calls particularly dangerous for officers. A 2008 study by the National Institute of Justice determined that victims of domestic violence are more likely to call the police after repeated assaults have already taken place — which puts police officers in an even more volatile situation when they do respond.

“If someone breaks into your home, you’re going to immediately call police. You’re not going to let someone break in 10 times. But with domestic violence, it’s unique in that way, that the call could represent something that’s been percolating over time,” says David Chipman, senior policy adviser at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and a former agent at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for 25 years.

Rates of domestic violence in the United States declined by more than 60% from 1994 to 2010, but the scourge of abuse still touches millions of Americans. About one in four women and one in seven men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adding up to 29 million female victims and 15.6 million male victims.

Over the past several decades, certain police policies toward domestic violence have changed from considering abuse a family dispute to a serious criminal offense that requires a response, including specialized domestic-violence units inside departments and comprehensive service centers for victims.

“Back in the ’80s and ’70s, nobody ever looked at this as a crime. They looked at it as more of a nuisance. As officers started getting injured and in many cases killed — and victims being killed, also — we started analyzing and assessing and identifying better methods” for responding to domestic violence, says Frank Fernandez, director of public safety in Coral Gables, Fla., and chairman of the International Association of Chiefs of Police Firearms Committee.

Displaying empathy helps officers de-escalate a potentially explosive domestic violence situation, Fernandez says.

Tactics such as arriving on the scene with at least one other officer, standing on either side of the front door instead of approaching it directly, using verbal communication skills to develop a dialogue with the parties involved and having domestic-violence detectives follow up with repeat offenders are now more widely used.

When police report to a home where there have been previous abuse calls, they should be aware of that history of violence — including whether the alleged abuser might have a weapon — so they can prepare for the potentially lethal threat, Fernandez says.

One department’s approach

One local police department has spent the past six years pioneering a strategy that can help identify these kinds of abusers.

High Point, N.C., had a problem. From 2004 to 2008, one-third of the city’s murders were related to intimate partner violence, well above both the state and national averages, according to former police chief Jim Fealy. So in 2009, the police department, in partnership with the National Network for Safe Communities, began to take action.

Its approach tracks alleged abusers and intervenes accordingly depending upon the severity of the violence. High Point breaks down offenders into four categories, from those who have never been charged with domestic violence to the most lethal repeat offenders.

Those who are deemed most dangerous are immediately targeted for prosecution, while the lowest-level offenders receive a letter from the police, informing them they are being monitored.

From 2012, when the strategy was implemented, to 2014, there was just one intimate partner violence homicide in the city, compared with 17 from 2004 to 2011. Calls to police in High Point to report intimate partner violence declined by 20%, as did arrests, and the percentage of victims who were injured also dropped from 2012 to 2014.

While these numbers show promising trends, the rate of offenders who re-assaulted their partners within one year remained close to what it was before the program was put in place, according to a recent evaluation of High Point’s initiative by researchers from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. This may be because of poor record-keeping before the strategy began, which could have caused an underestimate of intimate partner violence cases, the researchers write.

The High Point strategy of early intervention that notifies abusers, monitors them and emphasizes follow-up and deterrence is part of “an evolution” in policing of domestic violence, Fernandez says.

Danger remains

Even as departments such as High Point begin testing new tactics and technologies, the dangers of police work haunt families. Erin Billa says her heart dropped every time a call from the city of Mobile came through on her work phone.

“It didn’t matter if it was a random day that we were arguing, we always said we loved each other before we left. Always,” she says.

Officers are often taught that their lives come second, says Maria Haberfeld, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who has written extensively about policing. That mentality combined with insufficient training make it difficult for them to make a judgment about the best approach to a complex domestic violence situation.

Training should include more practice of real-life domestic violence scenarios, she says, and it should continue during an officer’s career after the police academy, but resources are tight and many departments can’t afford to provide additional, in-house training to their officers.

Standards for police training vary widely by state. And, she says, training in the U.S. is “very poor” and “an embarrassment” when compared to other democratic countries such as Norway or Finland, where police training lasts for three academic years.

In the U.S., the length of basic-training programs averages about 21 weeks, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Linda Pope says she fears that no amount of training can save an officer in an ambush. Police must always be vigilant.

“Domestic violence is absolutely the deadliest situation that police officers are found in,” Pope says. “The cycle of abuse is something that happens every day in our world, and they need to be just ever so diligent, never become complacent and just make sure that they go home to their families every night.”

Natalie Schreyer is a reporter at the Fuller Project for International Reporting. The Fuller Project is a non-profit news organization dedicated to covering issues most impacting women and girls globally. It is funded through grants and private donations.

Leave a comment

March 21, 2018

Afghanistan-Taliban peace talks must include women negotiators defending their rights

Grantee News From Council on Foreign Relations:

In 23 rounds of Afghanistan-Taliban peace talks, women were at the table just twice. They need formal roles in any new talks to protect their own progress.


Afghan women have long feared that negotiators for a peace agreement with the Taliban would trade away women’s rights for the chance to end more than 16 years of war. This apprehension may soon be tested.

In the wake of Kabul’s recent overture to the Taliban, proposing negotiations without preconditions and offering to recognize the insurgent group as a legitimate political party, many have renewed hope for peace talks. But if talks do begin in earnest, will women be at the table? They should — not simply as a matter of fairness, but as a strategic imperative. As women have demonstrated, from Colombia to the Philippines to Liberia, their involvement makes it more likely both that a peace agreement will be reached, and that it will endure.

More: Donald Trump makes right moves in Afghanistan 

More: Mike Pence: Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan will undo past failures

Women and girls have made notable progress since the fall of the Taliban, which adheres to a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam in which women are considered second-class citizens. Under Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, Afghan women were banned from schools and work, faced public beatings and executions, and endured severe restrictions on their movement. Today, women and girls enjoy more opportunity to attend school and participate in political and economic life.

However, these gains have not translated into opportunities for women to participate in the peace process. In 23 rounds of peace talks between 2005 and 2014, women were at the table on only two occasions. When officials from over 25 countries recently gathered for the Kabul Process, an Afghan-led peace conference, the room was overwhelmingly filled with men. If the conference is at all indicative of what future negotiations will look like, Afghan leaders should rethink their approach and pursue instead a proven strategy to improve the chances for peace: the participation of women.

In a new interactive report, we present in-depth case studies and an index tracking women in formal roles in peace processes from 1990 to the present. This and other research suggests that including women in peace processes advances security, and that their participation in negotiations makes the resulting agreement 64% less likely to fail and 35% more likely to last at least 15 years.

Despite the marginalization of women from Afghanistan’s formal peace negotiations, Afghan women have made valuable contributions to addressing violence and securing peace at the grassroots level throughout the country. Here are four ways they have made a difference:

► They have brokered local deals. Female members of provincial peace councils have negotiated directly with insurgent leaders to support the reintegration of demobilized Taliban fighters into local communities, facilitate the release of hostages (which they succeeded in doing by first reaching out to the wives of Talibs), and mobilize local support for the peace process, including by encouraging local insurgents to participate in talks. They also are working in schools and community organizations to counter extremist narratives.

More: Will Trump once again fall for a Saudi charm offensive? Let’s hope not.

POLICING THE USA: A look at race, justice, media

► They have gained access to critical information. Because Afghan women can access spaces in society that men cannot, they can offer unique contributions to security operations and inform negotiating positions. Recognizing this, the United States and coalition partners formed teams to increase their outreach to Afghan women and gather intelligence about potential security risks. However, insights are not always heeded: A network of women activists in Kabul and Ghazni reported to local security personnel their suspicion that the Taliban wassmuggling weapons into the province, based on an increase in trucks passing through their areas. Security officials did not respond, and a few months later, the Taliban freed fighters from a Ghazni jail in the largest prison break in years, dealing a significant setback to security efforts.

► They built public support. Women’s groups reach out to rural areas that are typically cut off from information about the peace process, sharing updates and soliciting input. For example, female members of the High Peace Council led a nationwide campaign in 2014 across most of the country’s 34 provinces, despite the dangerous conditions, to increase public awareness of the process. Female organizers collected 250,000 signatures of women and girls in support of the peace process, which they delivered to then-President Hamid Karzai, Taliban leaders and the United Nations.

► They have worked across lines. Afghan women frequently organize across cultural and sectarian divides in pursuit of shared priorities, and bring attention to social and humanitarian concerns and the right of marginalized groups to participate in the peace process. For example, at the 2004 constitutional convention, women successfully reached across ethnic lines to push for a written commitment to equal rights for all Afghan citizens.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani recently affirmed that women must be part of any peace process with the Taliban. Now it’s up to Afghan leaders, the United States and other stakeholders to ensure that Afghan women have a seat at the table and an opportunity to help bring peace and security to Afghanistan.

Jamille Bigio is a senior fellow for women and foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. Rachel Vogelstein is the Douglas Dillon Senior Fellow at the council and director of its Women and Foreign Policy program. On Twitter: @jamillebigio 

Leave a comment

March 13, 2018

Compton grantee, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health , staff are target of ICE detention

Grantee News From National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health:

Release Alejandra Pablos from immigration detention, allowing her to pay for a bond.

Why is this important?

Alejandra Pablos, a reproductive rights and immigrant rights organizer, wast taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on March 7th, 2018 and is being held at the Eloy Detention Center in Southern Arizona, without access to a bond.

Alejandra’s case is complicated. As a young person she was arrested and convicted of several charges, including Driving Under the Influence and possession of drug paraphernalia, some of which were felonies under Arizona state law. In 2011, after she complied with the orders from the court, she spent 2 years at the Eloy Detention Center in Southern Arizona, lost her residency, and was placed in deportation proceedings.

But since Alejandra was released from detention she has worked to advocate for human and civil rights, dedicating her life to organizing against the attacks on immigrant rights and fighting for reproductive rights.

As part of her local organizing, in early January of this year, as Pablos was leading chants at a peaceful protest in Virginia outside of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), she was singled out and detained by DHS agents. Although she was released, this flagged her case. When Pablos showed up to her check-in with ICE in Tucson, she was taken into custody and not allowed to pay a bond.

Pablos is a nationally recognized immigrant rights and reproductive rights, activist. She works as a Field Coordinator for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, where she organizes to raise the voices of Latinas in Virginia for policy change at all levels of government on issues that impact their lives, women’s health care, and other social justice issues. Alejandra has been a staunch advocate for immigration reform and mass incarceration. She is a member of Mijente, a national political Latinx organization, and has worked with many immigrant rights and prison abolition organizers throughout the country.

How it will be delivered

Selected letters will be submitted as part of Alejandra’s bond request in front of the immigration judge.

Please share out this petition demanding Alejandra’s release<> and please share out this petition demanding Eva’s release<>.


Leave a comment

March 9, 2018

Ms. Must-Reads for International Women’s Day

Grantee News From Ms. Magazine:

When wars explode, communities caught in the crosshairs pay the price. And women, often responsible for caring for the family, become the first line of defense. They mobilize aid and make sure that the most vulnerable are sheltered.
Here’s a thought experiment: Imagine a world where policies were decided by women like these, the people most likely to be impacted by those policies.

What would a Syrian woman who has had to flee a war zone and become a refugee with her children think of Trump’s plan to effectively turn U.S. embassies into showrooms to sell U.S. weapons? How would an Iraqi woman who has sheltered survivors of airstrikes react to the U.S. decision to increase bombings and reduce restrictions on civilian casualties?

We don’t yet live in a world where these women would be consulted as the policy advisors they deserve to be. (If we did, those policies would be unthinkable.) But we don’t have to wonder what women like these would think, because they’re already letting us know—by organizing their communities and amplifying their voices to confront the policy actions that threaten them.

Read More


Special International Women’s Day Blog Digest:
Women, Peace and Security



For over 45 years, Ms. has been at the forefront of reporting on women’s lives and feminist activism around the world. With the support of the Compton Foundation, we launched the Ms. Women, Peace and Security Initiative in 2016 to further that legacy, working with a cohort of cutting-edge organizations to center gender in conversations about foreign policy, national security and global conflict.

We’ll continue amplifying women’s voices from every corner of the globe all year long. But today, to mark International Women’s Day, we dedicated our blog coverage to women, peace and security—and I’d like to invite you to read some of our most recent and some of our most popular posts on the topic in a special IWD edition of our Ms. blog digest. (If you don’t yet receive our weekly blog digest, you can sign up for it here.)

With a world that is seemingly stuck in turmoil, I hope these stories and perspectives will inspire you—and remind you of the power of our global movement for women’s lives.

In solidarity,

Carmen Rios
Digital Editor, Ms.

Leave a comment

February 5, 2018

ICAN launches 3rd thematic animation: Gendered Devolution

Grantee News From ICAN:

We are excited to launch our third thematic animation in the Better Peace Initiative series! Gendered Devolution: Why it matters, how to do it explores why gender sensitivity and inclusivity in devolution processes matters and how it can be done in very practical ways.

Click here to view and download the video

Since the 1990’s the proliferation of actors and growing complexity of contemporary wars have demanded new approaches to their prevention and resolution. Traditional approaches to conflict resolution are not working. Inclusion of a range of actors is necessary to achieve sustainable peace.

Women are often the ones to stand up and struggle for peace in their country. Research conducted across conflict zones over the past 15 years has confirmed that the inclusion of women civil society in peace processes can reduce the chance of failure by 50%, and that women’s groups make significant contributions when present. But inclusion in practice requires a paradigm shift away from a narrow notion of peace negotiations as security and political processes to acknowledging that they must be inclusive societal processes.

Recognizing the need to move beyond the question of why inclusivity matters in peace processes to how to do it in practice, ICAN in 2014 launched its Better Peace Initiative (BPI). Drawing on consultations with expert practitioners and mediators, we developed the Better Peace Tool (BPT), the first in our series of tools. The BPT explores the history and evolution of peacemaking in modern times, and considers six common barriers to inclusion and how to overcome them. It then presents a four-part framework for the inclusion of women peacebuilders. The tool addresses the “how to” question by offering practical guidance for the effective inclusion of gender perspectives and women peacebuilders.

As the demand and momentum for gendered peacemaking and women’s inclusion grows, personnel in state and multilateral institutions as well as women peacebuilders are requesting guidance to inform their work. To meet this demand, we continue to develop innovative tools that can be used by diplomats, governments and grassroots peacebuilders to ensure inclusivity and gender sensitivity in peace making. We are producing short thematic animations on gendered thematic topics that are commonly addressed in peace processes, such as transitional justice and devolution.

We also recognize that a comprehensive peace agreement alone does not guarantee sustainable peace. Reforming institutions like the justice- and security sector are often part of building a peaceful society. So this year we are tackling more themes, such as gendered community policing.

Our materials are translated for use in multiple settings. We welcome translation requests as well as suggestions for thematic topics  to tackle.

We are incredibly thankful to the UNDP, the Compton Foundation, The Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development for supporting the Better Peace Initiative!

Leave a comment

January 26, 2018

These Pakistani Women Are Cutting Off Extremists’ Resources—One Thread at a Time

January 8, 2018

The Perils of Mixing Masculinity and Missiles

January 4, 2018

5 reasons the U.N. Security Council should care about the Burmese military’s sexual assaults on the Rohingya

November 16, 2017

A 12-Year-Old Warrior for Justice

October 14, 2017

Funds That Can Put Your Investments on a Low-Carbon Diet