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National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month January 20, 2012

Posted by Alicia in Education, How To Help, Teenage Relationships, What We're Up To.
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February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.  What have we done, and what can we do to promote healthy relationships among teens?  In November, our bloggers and friends of unfollowcharlie raised awareness and contributed to Break the Cycle, a campaign in conjunction with loveisrespect.org.

With the help of our donation, Break the Cycle is:

Teaching teens the signs of abuse
Training the next generation of leaders about dating violence
Ensuring that teens in every state have basic rights, like access to restraining orders.

What can we do without even leaving our computers, iPads and iPhones?

On each Monday beginning January 16th (oops, missed one) you can tweet comments and answers to teens about what healthy relationships are. Tweet to #whatlovemeans on these dates:

Monday January 23rd
Monday, January 30th
Monday February 6th

The best answers will be retweeted at @Love_isNotAbuse and @Seventeenmag

On Facebook, you can post on your wall raising awareness.  Or do more, get creative!  And “like” or post on this page:

You can check out this list of states to see how yours stacks up with others in passing legislation about teen dating violence education and new laws protecting teens in need of a restraining order.  Don’t like what you see?  Contact your legislator, and if they don’t respond with legislation, ask the schools.  There are community programs that can help the schools and provide in-service training for certified teachers.

Read a transcript of the DVD available from the PBS program ‘in the mix’ for teens.

And, here is a FREE curriculum on teen dating violence with videos included to educate yourself, or even receive certification.

What still needs to be done to help teens maintain healthy relationships?

A lot.  But let’s start here. Very few domestic shelters accept teens as the primary victims, and most teen victims are not protected by law unless they are living with the abuser or have a child with him.  Advocating for effective and well funded programs to protect teens and help their abusers receive counseling is essential.  In terms of prevention, since most teens confide in their friends, and spend much of their day at school, educating teens about how to help their peers should be a top priority.


Donate Your Unused Cell Phone For Use By Domestic Violence Victims July 6, 2011

Posted by Kate in Domestic Abuse, How To Help, What We're Up To.
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We have spoken a bit about Liz Claiborne and how it has been a good corporate citizen in fighting domestic violence.  Let’s now focus on Verizon and it’s HopeLine program.

Often, victims in abusive relationships have no way of safely contacting the authorities without the knowledge of their abuser.  Verizon has found a way to provide free cellphones to police and domestic violence shelters to distribute to victims.  The HopeLine program collects unused cell phones which are then refurbished for: a) victims’ use – these include 3000 minutes or b) for sale to fund a domestic violence grant program.  Finally, if a phone cannot be refurbished then it is disposed of in an environmentally safe way.

You can ship your old phone along with the charger and any other accessories to Verizon with a pre-paid postage mailer by clicking here.

Since HopeLine from Verizon’s national cell phone recycling and re-use program was launched in 2001, Verizon Wireless has:

  • Collected more than 8 million phones.
  • Awarded more than $10 million in cash grants to domestic violence agencies and organizations throughout the country.
  • Distributed more than 106,000 phones with more than 319 million minutes of free wireless service to be used by victims of domestic violence.
  • Properly disposed of nearly 1.7 million no-longer-used wireless phones in an environmentally sound way.
  • Kept more than 210 tons of electronic waste and batteries out of landfills.

For more on the HopeLine program: Click here.

Facebook, Twitter and Web Connections June 29, 2011

Posted by Kate in Domestic Abuse, Prevention, Teenage Relationships, Uncategorized, What We're Up To.
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One of the things that we found when trying to research dating violence prevention and education is that there was no one website that had links to further information – it was scattered across the net.  The goal of this blog piece is to create a resource page for Unfollow Charlie which includes Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and website addresses.  Please take a look at these resources and follow them on Facebook and Twitter to keep abreast of the latest information in the struggle to prevent intimate partner violence.

A Call to Men: An Organization Dedicated to Engaging Men in Prevention Efforts to End Violence and Discrimination Against Women and Girls.
 Facebook home page  Website home page: http://www.acalltomen.org/

A Thin Line: MTV’s A Thin Line campaign was developed to empower you to identify, respond to, and stop the spread of digital abuse in your life and amongst your peers. The campaign is built on the understanding that there’s a “thin line” between what may begin as a harmless joke and something that could end up having a serious impact on you or someone else. We know no generation has ever had to deal with this, so we want to partner with you to help figure it out. On-air, online and on your cell, we hope to spark a conversation and deliver information that helps you draw your own digital line. Facebook home page Follow on Twitter: @A_Thin_Line Website home page: http://www.athinline.org/

Break the Cycle: Break the Cycle believes everyone has the right to safe and healthy relationships. We are the leading, national nonprofit organization addressing teen dating violence. We work every day towards our mission to engage, educate and empower youth to build lives and communities free from domestic violence.  Facebook home page Follow on Twitter: @BreaktheCycleDV  Website home page: http://www.breakthecycle.org/

Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence: Our mission is to aid in the prevention of partner violence by leveraging the strength and resources of the corporate community. We believe that business plays an essential role in raising awareness of the issue and that our sustained efforts will help reduce and ultimately eliminate partner violence. Facebook home page  Website home page: http://www.caepv.org/

Love Is Not Abuse: Since 1991 Liz Claiborne Inc. has been working to end domestic violence. Through its Love is Not Abuse program, the company provides information and tools that men, women, children, teens and corporate executives can use to learn more about the issue and find out how they can help end this epidemic.   Facebook home page Follow on Twitter: @Love_IsNotAbuse  Website home page: www.loveisnotabuse.com

National Sexual Violence Resource Center:The National Sexual Violence Resource Center serves as the nation’s principle information and resource center regarding all aspects of sexual violence. It provides national leadership, consultation and technical assistance by generating and facilitating the development and flow of information on sexual violence intervention and prevention strategies. The NSVRC works to address the causes and impact of sexual violence through collaboration, prevention efforts and the distribution of resources. Facebook home page Follow on Twitter: @NSVRC  Website home page: http://www.nsvrc.org/

VAWNet, The National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women: The goal of VAWnet, The National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women is to use electronic communication technology to enhance efforts to prevent violence against women and intervene more effectively when it occurs.  VAWnet supports local, state, and national prevention and intervention strategies that enhance safety and well-being and address the self-identified needs and concerns of victims and survivors. Facebook home page  Follow on Twitter:@VAWNet Website home page: www.vawnet.org

Two Organizations Helping Men Teach Boys To Respect Women June 22, 2011

Posted by Kate in Domestic Abuse, Prevention, Teenage Relationships, What We're Up To.
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Fathers, coaches, and teachers play an important role in shaping boys’ attitudes toward women.  A Call to Men and Love Is Not Abuse are two organizations that are helping men to understand what they can to do help prevent violence and discrimination against women and girls.

From A Call to Men, here is a list of Ten Things Men Can Do:

1. Acknowledge and understand how male dominance and aspects of unhealthy manhood are at the foundation of domestic and sexual violence.

2. Examine and challenge our individual beliefs and the role that we play in supporting men who are abusive.

3. Recognize and stop colluding with other men by getting out of our socially defined roles, and take a stance to prevent domestic and sexual violence.

4. Remember that our silence is affirming. When we choose not to speak out against domestic and sexual violence, we are supporting it.

5. Educate and re-educate our sons and other young men about our responsibility in preventing domestic and sexual violence.

6.”Break out of the man box”- Challenge traditional images of manhood that stop us from actively taking a stand in domestic and sexual violence prevention.

7. Accept and own our responsibility that domestic and sexual violence will not end until men become part of the solution to end it. We must take an active role in creating a cultural and social shift that no longer tolerates violence and discrimination against women and girls.

8. Stop supporting the notion that domestic and sexual violence is due to mental illness, lack of anger management skills, chemical dependency, stress, etc… Domestic and sexual violence is rooted in male dominance and the
socialization of men.

9. Take responsibility for creating appropriate and effective ways to educate and raise awareness about domestic and sexual violence prevention.

10. Create responsible and accountable men’s initiatives in your community to support domestic and sexual violence prevention.

For the brochure Tough Talk – What Boys Need to Know About Relationship Abuse from Liz Claiborne’s Love Is Not Abuse, please click here.

Where We Are Headed June 12, 2011

Posted by Syd in Education, Prevention, What We're Up To.
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Two months on, the media attention paid to Charlie Sheen has died down.  The producers of “Two and Half Men” have moved on.  The men and women of UnfollowCharlie are now also moving on, or rather, shifting our focus.  When we started this project, we knew we wanted to raise awareness about domestic violence.  We wanted to highlight great individuals and organizations, and we wanted to educate our readers about some of the truly disheartening statistics out there.  What we struggled with was a particular way to help – domestic violence – it’s a huge, global issue, and there are several aspects one can tackle.  While we wrote about/tweeted/linked to sites or stories we found, we needed to focus our energies.   Over discussions on how to do so,  Jenn raised an interesting point:

“ Boys are often taught to stifle their feelings and that comes out in bad ways in a relationship. I also think some men have mommy issues that they project onto their partner, and when it goes bad it goes really bad. There are a whole lot of codependency issues involved as well. My hope was that there was some sort of education for young boys that teaches them this is not okay, no matter what, and if you start to feel this way, you should do this.”

The wheels started to turn from there.  She’s right – children and adolescents are not being taught about domestic violence to any great degree.  They are learning from the relationships they see at home.  Kate has been doing an enormous amount of research on this topic – finding out where programs actually exist, how do they work, how they are funded.  She discovered that thankfully, work IS being done in this area, but it is not enough.  Schools face budget cuts on a regular basis, and funding does not exist for “non-essential” programs.

We believe this education IS essential.  Children and teens must be taught about healthy relationships.  They need to be able to recognize the signs of unhealthy or violent relationships, especially if they are raised in a violent home, otherwise these behaviors become normalized.

So – that’s where we’re headed.  Come with us!

How can you help?

First of all, we’re changing our name.  We need suggestions!  We’re opening this up to Facebook and Twitter, and we’re going to make it a friendly competition.  We need a positive, empowering name.  We’ve got some ideas we’re rolling around, but give us yours!  The contributor with the best suggestion will win a $100 donation to RAINN in their name.    We need it themed along our new goal, and can be an acronym.  The competition will end on July 16, 2011 at 11:59 EST.

Secondly –  Tell us what’s going on in your area.  What level of education exists in your local schools and communities?  How are the programs funded?

Third – please help us spread the word!  We’re on twitter, follow us here, and please join us on Facebook.

Please stay tuned for the new developments!

Breathing Underwater June 8, 2011

Posted by Kate in Domestic Abuse, Teenage Relationships, What We're Up To.
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Breathing Underwater Cover

Oftentimes art can be an effective instructional tool.  Breathing Underwater is a novel by Alex Flinn which tells the story of a teenage couple in Florida whose relationship becomes violent.  The book is used in the Love Is Not Abuse curriculum and is required summer reading before enterring ninth grade in Rhode Island.

The protagonist, Nick, is not the usual heroic type.  There are times when the reader won’t like Nick.  He’s a sophomore in high school who is navigating the uncharted waters of being a boyfriend for the first time.  He can be jealous, petty and even cruel.  His girlfriend Catlin is attractive and talented yet lacking in self-esteem.  Their union is peppered with intoxicating tender moments of first love, but dominated by Nick’s control issues.

While the story can be heavy handed at times, it is an effective teaching aid about what is not a healthy relationship.  Nick wants to separate Caitlin from her friends, is controlling, calls her names – some of the warning signs of a potentially violent relationship.

Excerpt:  In the novel, Nick recounts his relationship with Caitlin (also called Cat), whom he abused physically, verbally, and emotionally for most of their relationship. In this scene, Caitlin and Nick, who have been dating for a few months, are in Nick’s car, driving over a long two-lane bridge. Caitlin has just told Nick that she feels they need to talk about the way he treats her. Nick fears that she is going to tell him that she wants to end the relationship.


“I heard you. I’m deciding how to respond.” She could not leave me. As I hit the word respond, I pulled to the left, veering into the southbound lane. Then I floored it past three cars. A southbound Volvo station wagon slammed its brakes within yards of us. The driver was honking, yelling. I pulled back into the northbound lane and flipped him off. I looked at Caitlin. Her mouth hung in mid-scream. I laughed.

“Do you trust me, Cat?” She was silent. I leaned closer. “Did I ever tell you about my mother?” Caitlin recovered enough to shake her head no, and I said, “I was four, five, I’d lie awake nights, listening to her and my dad fighting, him hitting her.” I looked at Caitlin. “You want to hear this?”

She nodded.

“I thought we’d pack up and leave someday, her and I. I lived for that day.” On the wheel, my knuckles were white. “Then, one morning, I wake up, and she’s gone, never came back. She ran from the monster and left me there with him.”

Caitlin removed her sunglasses. “I’m sorry, Nick.”

“So you talk about trust, it’s pretty important. I mean, when the one person you trust just picks up and leaves…”

Caitlin’s hand slipped across my shoulder. I tried to shrug her off, swerving left into traffic, then back. Terror filled Caitlin’s eyes. Her nails ripped my flesh. “Trust me, Cat?” She could not leave me. I swerved again. “’Cause if you haven’t figured it out, life doesn’t mean much to me. Without you, it’s worthless.”

A flock of seagulls headed across my windshield. She could not leave me. I swerved again, this time counting three before I veered back. She could not leave me. Caitlin screamed at me to stop.

“What’s the matter?” When she didn’t answer, I swerved again. “Oh—this. Maybe you’re right.” I straightened the wheel, looking beyond her to the orange and green water east of the bridge. Silence. I didn’t swerve. Nothing. We were halfway across. Caitlin relaxed.

Suddenly, I said, “Think I could make a right here?” Right was into water. I made like I’d do it, crash through the guardrail, then down. Caitlin screamed. She grabbed for the wheel. I shoved her away so her fingers clawed the air. She tried again, gripping both my hands. The car swerved left into the path of a Bronco towing a boat. I pulled it back. My mind knew what she was doing, but my eyes didn’t. I couldn’t see her. She was shrieking. God, shut up! Her voice deafened me, and it was all around, in my ears, making me lose all control. She tried to grab the wheel. Blind and deaf, I drove, sun hot on my face. I had to get her off me. God, I just had to get her off me. Get her off me! Get off me! Get off!

Next thing I knew, I was driving on land. I couldn’t tell you whether it was minutes or hours later. Caitlin hung across the seat, head cradled in her fingers. My hand throbbed, and I knew I’d hit her. I’d hit her. I was tired. She’d worn me out, but the anger inside me dissolved, replaced by that regret. But I’d had to stop her. She’d been irrational, overwrought, shouldn’t have touched the wheel. She could have killed us. I looked at her. The seat was the length of a football field. Caitlin faced the window. She was so beautiful. Ahead was a red pickup with a Jesus fish. It was going at a good clip, but when we reached the next passing zone, I overtook it and a few other cars. Cat stiffened. I merged back into traffic and reached to stroke her hair.

She lifted her head, cautious as a runner stealing home, and stared.

“Are you all right, Caitlin?” I asked.  When she didn’t answer, I repeated the question.

She shook her head. “You hit me.”

I told her no. I hadn’t. I mean, she was grabbing the wheel. We’d almost creamed the Bronco. I had to get her off me before we got killed.

“Because you were driving off the bridge,” she said.

I laughed and said she knew me better. . . I’d never do it for real. Besides, we’d have crashed the guardrail, and I’d have gotten killed for wrecking the car.

“But you hit me, Nick.” She leaned out the window toward the sideview mirror to see if her cheek was getting red.

And it was. I didn’t expect it to be red, but it was—a little. I hadn’t hit her hard, just enough to get her off me. I said, “Don’t you know you shouldn’t grab the wheel when someone’s driving?”

“But I thought—“

She was pretty shaken. Mad maybe? I pulled her close. “Sorry I freaked you out, Kittycat.  I forget you aren’t used to guys. You don’t know we play rough sometimes.” She kept protesting, and I said, “You know what I was thinking? I wanted to buy you a ring. You know, like a symbol, since we’re going together. What’s your birthstone?”

Still, she stared like her life was flashing before her eyes. “You hit me, Nick.”

I kissed her. She drew away, and I pulled her back. “Your birthday’s in February, right?  I’ll ask the jeweler what the stone is.”

I held her close until she stopped struggling. The sun was down, but it wasn’t dark enough for a moon, and we crossed bridges connecting the islands, Big Pine Key, Plantation Key, Key Largo. Then we drove through mainland Miami a while. When we reached home, the sky above Rickenbacker Causeway was black, and Caitlin slept on my shoulder.

For the Amazon page and reviews, please click here.

For a teacher’s guide from the author’s website, please click here.

CDC’s Role in Intimate Partner Violence Prevention June 1, 2011

Posted by Kate in Domestic Abuse, What We're Up To.
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The Center for Disease Control is the primary federal agency charged with preventing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).  The CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (Injury Center) was established in 1992 to lead injury and violence prevention efforts. The field of injury and violence prevention is relatively young when compared to other areas of public health, but the burden of injury and violence coupled with the enormous cost of these problems to society make them a pressing public health concern.

CDC’s violence prevention activities are guided by four key principles:

  • An emphasis on primary prevention of violence perpetration. CDC emphasizes efforts that prevent violence before it occurs. CDC focuses on reducing the factors that put people at risk for perpetration while increasing the factors that protect people from becoming perpetrators of violence.
  • A commitment to a rigorous science base. Monitoring and tracking trends; researching risk and protective factors; rigorously evaluating prevention strategies, programs and policies; and learning how best to implement them adds to the base of what is known about violence and how to prevent it.
  • A cross-cutting perspective. Public health encompasses many disciplines and perspectives, making its approach well-suited for examining and addressing multifaceted problems like violence.
  • A population approach. Part of public health’s broad view is an emphasis on population health and not just the health of individuals. Violence is experienced acutely by individuals but its consequences and potential solutions affect society in general.

CDC’s strategic direction for intimate partner violence prevention is promoting respectful, nonviolent intimate partner relationships through individual, community, and societal change.

For information on the CDC Delta Program, click here.

For the CDC Fact Sheet on IPV, click here.

For the CDC School Curriculum “Choose Respect”, click here.

Why We Love Mick Foley April 12, 2011

Posted by Syd in Cool Stuff, Local Heroes, What We're Up To.
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Oh my goodness, where do we begin? In our “About” section, we mentioned that periodically we’d be writing about women who kick ass, but we will be updating that to include men because we simply must proclaim our admiration for Mick Foley.

If you are not a wrestling fan, you may not be super familiar with the name. Mick Foley is a professional wrestler, wrestling with all the major organisations – World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), World Championship Wrestling (WCW), Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW),  the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), and most recently Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA).

He is known for his hardcore matches. Has he been hit in the face with a 2×4 covered in barbed wire?  Sure.

Has he taken a fall from the TOP of the cage during a cage match? Yes. 

Was it ever uncommon for him to spill thumbtacks all over the ring during a match, only to end up with dozens in his own skin? Nope.

So why are we writing about this guy?


“But it’s funny, you sourpuss” (Paraphrased) March 31, 2011

Posted by thesporkgirl in What We're Up To, Why Unfollow Charlie?.
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The third most common contrary reaction I hear when people learn about #Unfollowcharlie, after “He’s not hurting anyone but himself,” and “I just want to watch the trainwreck,” is “But it’s funny.”

I understand that this is the hardest argument to counter. Humor is subjective. I understand that. So take this with a rather large grain of salt, when I ask, “Is it, really?” (more…)

Media Taking a Stand with UnfollowCharlie March 22, 2011

Posted by kelllo in Cool Stuff, Domestic Abuse, Local Heroes, What We're Up To.
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We know how difficult it is to be the voice of the “opposing” picture to the media darling of Charlie, so we want to be sure to send a sincere and heartfelt thank you to a few media outlets for helping us get the word out about what we are trying to do.

Josh Kerns with KIRO in Seattle took a moment to talk with Kelly on Monday night and we are so thankful they did!

Take a listen by clicking here.

And FOX 29 News also took a moment to discuss. Watch here.

And, of course, Jen Doll and The Village Voice have been so wonderful from the getgo.

We are so thankful for all the support we are receiving all across the world. We hope that support turns to local action!

If you have any information you would like to share with us (and all the readers of unfollowcharlie.com), please email us at unfollowcharlie at gmail dot com.