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Melissa Jeltsen
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Entries by Melissa Jeltsen

The U.S. Is Depressingly Good At Putting Women Behind Bars

(2) Comments | Posted November 24, 2015 | 9:51 AM

The United States puts women behind bars at a higher rate than every other country in the world, save for Thailand.

Though the U.S. has only 5 percent of the world's female population, it accounts for nearly 30 percent of incarcerated women globally, according to 

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Hillary Clinton: Gun Violence Is A National Emergency

(2) Comments | Posted November 19, 2015 | 12:06 PM

NEW YORK -- Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Tuesday called gun violence a "national emergency" and urged the public not to give up hope that the gun lobby can be defeated.

Clinton made her comments Tuesday evening as she was awarded the...

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Mom Whose Twin Babies Were Killed Has A Message About Domestic Violence You Shouldn't Ignore

(5) Comments | Posted November 18, 2015 | 11:17 AM

Megan Hiatt, 22, is still recovering in a Florida hospital after allegedly being shot by her boyfriend in a harrowing attack that killed her five-month-old twin daughters and her father. But she’s wasting no time in spreading the word about the warning signs of domestic violence.

On Friday, police say, 28-year old Gawain Rushane Wilson shot Hiatt, their five-month-old twins, Hayden Rose and Kayden Reese Hiatt, and Hiatt’s father, Travis James Hiatt, before turning the gun on himself at his home in Jacksonville, Florida. 

Megan Hiatt, who is currently in critical but stable condition, was the only survivor. From her hospital bed, she asked her mother Melissa Bateh to speak out publicly about the shooting in order to raise awareness about domestic violence, and to help other women before it’s too late.

In the U.S., around three women a day are killed in domestic violence incidents. Experts believe there are often multiple warning signs prior to homicide attempts. 

"A parent sometimes knows," Bateh told First Coast News in an interview on Monday. "I just knew in my gut that their relationship was not a healthy relationship."

Bateh said Wilson was controlling, taking away Hiatt's phone and refusing her access to the car. He would grab her and break her things, Bateh said, and was verbally abusive, calling her daughter fat. "The babies were three days old and he would ask her, 'So when are you going to start losing weight,'" she said.

In an unimaginable act of cruelty, she said, Wilson forced her daughter to hold the twin babies while he shot them. "He wanted to destroy her world, and he wanted her to watch it be destroyed," Batech said.

Hiatt was shot around five times, she said, and lost part of a breast. Friends have set up a GoFundMe page for medical costs and funeral expenses. 

While police wouldn’t speculate if Hiatt was moving out of her home at the time of the attack, a pickup truck with boxes in the bed was seen in the driveway on Friday. Women are at a higher risk of being killed when they are attempting to leave an abusive partner and during the period immediately after fleeing.

Wilson had a prior history of domestic violence.

According to First Coast News, in 2013 he was arrested for strangulation, for which he served two days in jail. Then nearly seven months after that arrest, a woman filed an injunction for protection against Wilson for repeated dating violence.

Strangulation is one of the best predictors of a future homicide in domestic violence cases. Research has found that if a woman has been strangled by an abusive partner in the past, she is seven times more likely to become a homicide victim. As Gael Strack, one of the nation's leading strangulation experts previously told The Huffington Post: "The minute you put pressure on someone’s neck, you are really announcing that you are a killer."

It's not uncommon for shootings that involve multiple victims, such as Hiatt's, to be related to domestic violence. A HuffPost investigation that looked at five years of mass shooting data found that in 57 percent of shootings in which four people were killed, the shooter targeted either a family member or an intimate partner. 

Despite the heinous act, Bateh said she does not hate Wilson.

“I think, on some level, he was a victim at some point in his life to push him to this," she said. “It was the ultimate 'I’m in control'… an ultimate 'Screw everybody.'"

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.


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Study Finds States With Background Checks Have Fewer Mass Shootings

(3) Comments | Posted November 12, 2015 | 10:05 AM

States that require background checks for all handgun sales have significantly fewer mass shootings than states without them, according to a new analysis by Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun violence prevention organization backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.


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Chris Christie Just Vetoed A Bill That Would Have Forced Domestic Abusers To Surrender Their Guns

(9) Comments | Posted November 10, 2015 | 11:34 AM

Republican presidential candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill on Monday that would have strengthened mechanisms for removing guns from domestic violence abusers.

Under existing state law, individuals convicted of domestic violence or subject to a final restraining order are barred from...

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Iranians Love Volleyball, But Half The Population Can't Attend Matches

(0) Comments | Posted November 4, 2015 | 6:47 PM

Human Rights Watch is calling on Iran to allow its women to attend volleyball matches -- a right they had until three years ago. 

Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, Iranian women haven't been allowed to attend men's football matches. In 2012, that ban was extended to volleyball -- one of the country's most popular sports. 

In a new digital advocacy campaign called #Watch4Women, Human Rights Watch is turning the heat on the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), the sport's governing body, to exclude Iran from hosting future tournaments until women are allowed to go. 

The FIVB recently awarded Iran the beach volleyball World Tour open event, which will take place in February 2016. 

"In the modern sports era, there is an understanding that gender equality is central to fair play. The Olympic Charter enshrines this principle, and so does the FIVB's own constitution," said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch. "Our position is that so long as Iran is not playing by the rules, then the government has not earned the right to host a major international tournament."

Women's exclusion from volleyball matches made international news last year, when Ghoncheh Ghavami, a British-Iranian woman, was arrested after attempting to watch a men's volleyball match in Tehran. She has since been released. 

In an emailed statement, FIVB spokesman Richard Baker said the organization opposed Human Rights Watch "using sport as a proxy for a political agenda" and said they were committed to gender equality. 

The statement, in full: 

The FIVB is aware of the campaign to force the withdrawal of all international volleyball tournaments from Iran. The FIVB fully supports the principle of gender equality as enshrined in the Olympic Charter and our own statutes, but we strongly oppose Human Rights Watch’s methods in using sport as a proxy for a political agenda.

The FIVB and Human Rights Watch share a common objective which goes beyond a volleyball tournament: it is to make a contribution towards women taking a more equal role in all aspects of Iranian society. The FIVB condemned the imprisonment of Ghoncheh Ghavami and FIVB President Dr. Ary S. Graca F° personally lobbied the Iranian authorities for her release.

The FIVB has also publicly condemned the ban on women in volleyball stadiums in Iran. It is our firm belief that our objective is better served by having the eyes of the world on Iran during international sports events than by a boycott. Boycotts punish athletes more than anyone else, and history has shown that they do not work. Sport provides opportunities for dialogue and cooperation and the FIVB will continue to ensure that Iran remains enfranchised in the international sports community so that sport’s power as an agent for positive change can be fully utilised.

The FIVB will meet privately with Human Rights Watch at the earliest opportunity to see how we can work together to achieve our mutual objective. In the meantime, the international sports community can rest assured that the FIVB will continue our work in Iran to help create an inclusive and tolerant environment for volleyball and all sports.

Worden said FIVB's position would be reasonable if Iran was making progress, but the opposite is true. 

"There has been a 10-year effort by women rights activists in Iran to exercise their right to watch sports inside stadiums. In that time, instead of gaining more rights, their spaces have actually been restricted," she said. "If you were to go to a sports stadium anywhere the world and see a sign that said 'Whites Only,' there would be a big outcry. In Iran, the reality for Iranian women is that the signs effectively say 'Men Only.' That is not an acceptable situation." 


Melissa Jeltsen covers domestic violence and other issues related to women's health, safety and security. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow her on Twitter.



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Inside A Notorious Women's Prison Before Its Revolutionary Makeover

(0) Comments | Posted November 3, 2015 | 1:00 PM

A defunct women’s prison whose inmates once reported the highest rate of staff sexual abuse in the country will soon be transformed into office space for organizations advocating for women and children, as well as space for child care services.

Bayview Correctional Facility,...

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Uma incrível jornada: de gêmeos idênticos a irmão e irmã

(0) Comments | Posted October 30, 2015 | 9:44 PM

Um novo livro conta a experiência extraordinária de criar uma criança transgênero.


Os gêmeos Nicole e Jonas Maines, agora com 18 anos, nasceram meninos

Quando Wayne e Kelly Maines adotaram um par de meninos gêmeos, 18 anos atrás, não tinham ideia do rumo que suas vidas...

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The Biggest Issue Women Face Today, According To Gloria Steinem

(0) Comments | Posted October 27, 2015 | 1:25 PM

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem offered a powerful reminder in an interview on NPR's "Fresh Air" that one of the most basic goals of the women’s rights movement -- safety from violence -- is still far from achieved.

In an...

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Budget Crisis Devastates Pennsylvania's Domestic Violence Shelters

(0) Comments | Posted October 26, 2015 | 2:23 PM

Domestic violence shelters in Pennsylvania are quickly running out of money and face possible closure because of a monthslong budget impasse in the state government, advocates warn.

The state has been operating without a budget for 118 days. In June, Democratic Gov.

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Gwyneth Paltrow's Blog Resurrects Discredited Breast Cancer Myth

(2) Comments | Posted October 20, 2015 | 1:35 PM

It's the myth that just won't quit.

A recent post on Goop, the lifestyle blog of actress Gwyneth Paltrow, has resurrected the long-discredited claim that breast cancer may be caused by...

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The Remarkable Journey From Identical Twins To Brother And Sister

(0) Comments | Posted October 19, 2015 | 10:34 AM

When Wayne and Kelly Maines adopted identical twin baby boys 18 years ago, they had no idea the trajectory their lives would take. Wayne, an Air Force veteran and rugged outdoorsman, was looking forward to fishing, hunting and playing baseball with his boys. Kelly was just...

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Ohio Legislators Introduce Bill To Make Strangulation A Felony Crime

(0) Comments | Posted October 14, 2015 | 1:05 PM

A bill that aims to crack down on domestic violence by making non-fatal strangulation a felony offense in Ohio was introduced on Wednesday.

Under the proposed bill, strangulation would be considered a third-degree felony.

"While all domestic violence cases deserve our attention,...

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Millions Of Women Become Outcasts After Childbirth. But There's A Fix.

(0) Comments | Posted October 12, 2015 | 4:32 PM

A new documentary narrated by Meryl Streep aims to raise awareness about a debilitating childbirth injury that affects an estimated 2 million women -- and many people don’t know even exists.

"Shout Gladi Gladi" focuses on the work of a Scottish philanthropist, Ann Gloag, and her organization’s effort to fight obstetric fistula, a medical condition that results in women leaking urine or feces.

"When this happens to women, they become outcasts in society," said Gloag, who runs the Freedom From Fistula Foundation. "Even their own sisters and mothers turn away from them because of the smell."

Most cases of fistula are caused by a prolonged obstructed labor. The scenario often looks like this: A woman is in labor for two or three days, without access to a hospital. The pressure of her baby's head damages the delicate tissue in the birth canal. After the baby is born, the tissue dies, leaving a hole between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum, and the woman incontinent. 

For women with fistula, life can be painful and difficult. They often are shunned by their communities, can't work, and may become malnourished as a result of reducing their food and water intake to minimize leakage.

But the injury is entirely fixable with surgery. That's where Gloag’s foundation steps in. Her organization has set up projects in Kenya, Sierra Leone and Malawi, where they offer women free surgery to repair fistula. The goal is to operate on as many women as possible, so they can begin to move on with their lives, free from the pain and stigma. 

While fistula has been almost eradicated in the developed world, the World Health Organization estimates that 50,000 to 100,000 women develop obstetric fistula each year. Most of those cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa or south Asia. "Nobody in Britain gets it," said Gloag. "We get obstructed labor just as they do, but you would immediately do a cesarean" section.

Access to surgical care across Africa is abysmally low, and many women who need C-sections can’t get them. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 25 of the 29 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have caesarian rates of 5 percent of births or lower. WHO says the ideal rate for a country’s caesarean sections is 10 percent to 15 percent. 

Gloag, a former nurse, said fistula is more common in areas where women live long distances from hospitals, and among young women whose pelvises are not fully formed before getting pregnant.

"We get a lot of girls who are 12,13 years old -- they are not really ready for it," Gloag said. "If you could stop early marriage, stop early pregnancy and improve maternal health care, you could end fistula." 

Adam Friedman, co-director of "Shout Gladi Gladi," said he hadn't heard of the condition before he met Gloag, and was shocked to learn how common it is in the developing world."There was an obvious story here," he said. "When you hear about it, you go, 'Oh my God, this must be dealt with.'" 

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Relief For Woman Sentenced To 20 Years For Using Meth While Pregnant

(3) Comments | Posted October 12, 2015 | 10:54 AM

A woman who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for using methamphetamine while pregnant may soon go free.

In 2014, Melissa McCann-Arms was convicted of introducing a controlled substance into the body of another person after her newborn son tested positive for methamphetamine. She admitted...

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A Legal Loophole May Have Cost This Woman Her Life

(18) Comments | Posted October 7, 2015 | 12:07 PM

From the outside looking in, Monica Weber-Jeter was far from isolated. The 35-year-old kept busy with five school-aged children, and worked at a bustling oncology clinic as a medical assistant. Her mom, her two older sisters and her identical twin sister all lived within a 10-mile...

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Advocates Urge Cuomo To End Shackling Of Pregnant Women

(0) Comments | Posted October 4, 2015 | 10:33 PM

NEW YORK -- Advocates dressed up in fake pregnant bellies and wearing shackles rallied in front of the office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Monday, pressing him to sign a bill that would strengthen a 2009 law that banned the shackling of incarcerated women during...

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Surviving A Mass Shooting Means Learning To Cope With The Next One

(0) Comments | Posted October 3, 2015 | 7:56 PM

Colin Goddard was immersed in a work call when he heard the news: There had been another mass shooting, this time at a community college in Oregon.

A survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, the deadliest school massacre...

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Why Some Tennessee Women Are Afraid To Give Birth At The Hospital

(4) Comments | Posted October 1, 2015 | 6:12 PM

A year ago, when Tennessee passed a bill allowing women to be charged with assault if they use narcotics while pregnant, health advocates warned that the law would deter women from seeking vital medical care out of fear of being prosecuted. Their...

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Men Offer Abhorrent Excuses For Killing Women. Don't Repeat Them.

(4) Comments | Posted September 22, 2015 | 7:06 PM

On Sunday, Fidel Lopez, a 24-year-old South Florida man, was charged with murder after he confessed to penetrating his girlfriend Maria Nemeth with various objects without her consent and then disemboweling her with his bare hands.

He told police that his murderous attack was triggered when...

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