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Violence Against Women
by Marilyn McFarlane

Is there a link between a society's spiritual and religious beliefs and its attitudes toward women? This is the theme to be explored at the Second Northwest Regional Conference on violence against women and children, July 23 and 24 at Portland State University.

The conference, sponsored by PSU's Women's Studies Department and Voices Set Free, an organization founded to oppose interpersonal violence, is a part of the university's summer session of extended studies. Portland State students may earn course credit.

Organizers expect a varied group of participants, including social workers, therapists, psychologists, people in the criminal justice system and others working with abuse survivors; religious and spiritual leaders and activists; staff and volunteers at shelters; and the general public. A number will be survivors themselves, who will be encouraged to make their voices heard.

Riane Eisler
The keynote speaker will be Riane Eisler, a noted scholar and the author of The Chalice and the Blade, which documents the shift from ancient Goddess-worshiping cultures to patriarchy and offers methods for reestablishing peace and partnership. Princeton anthropologist Ashley Montagu called Eisler's work "the most important book since Darwin's Origin of Species." Her most recent book, Sacred Pleasure: Sex, Myth, and the Politics of the Body, has also received critical praise.

Nzinga Nantambu, a nationally acclaimed consultant on issues of healing, social justice and personal empowerment, will also speak. Conference participants may attend any two of eighteen workshops, each with a focus on the spiritual connection to ending violence against women and children. Margi McCue, an activist in the movement to stop interpersonal violence, said, "It has become increasingly clear that this is a critical spiritual problem, as well as a physical and emotional health problem, and it must be addressed collaboratively. We have to look at it holistically."

For this reason, workshops include such topics as Altar Building For Healing, Spirituality in Psychotherapy, Healing the Body & Spirit Through Movement, The Feminine Face of God, Medicine Wheel Healing and What Can People of Faith Do? One workshop, geared to abuse victims, will be Healing For Survivors; another, Girl Scouts Beyond Bars. McCue's workshop, entitled The Partnership Way, will focus on Riane Eisler's recommended steps to creating a "partnership" culture of egalitarianism in every realm, from the personal to the global.

A panel of active community members will be devoted to solutions. Panelists include David Slader, president of Oregon Abuse Survivors & Advocates; Sally Eck, a student and volunteer in a domestic violence shelter; Sheree Fields, Director of Membership Marketing for Girl Scouts of the USA; and Rev. Sue Ayer, retired minister from Eastrose Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Another panel will consist of survivors who will share their stories of healing and the role of spirituality in that process.

Louise Bauschard, who faces the abuse issue frequently in her role as Coordinator of Volunteer Services for Washington County's Department of Community Corrections, is the chairperson for Creating Connections. "We're presenting this conference because it's so important that we work together to end violence against women and children," she said. "Men and women of all faiths are already working on the issue. We want to bring them together, combine our forces, and look for creative solutions."

For information on the conference, call the Women's Studies Dept., Portland State University, 725-3516, or e-mail FreeVSF@aol.com.

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