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Dean’s Diversity Forum - Why Rachel Weeps

Why Rachel Weeps: Violence Against Poor and Minority Women and the Wounding of the Heart

Tuesday, October 14, 2014
8:30 am - 12:30 p.m.

Administration Building - A180
3800 Vartan Way, P.O. Box 69380
Harrisburg, PA 17106-9380

Please bring your donations of professional clothing to benefit victims of domestic abuse.

Three CLE credits (including one ethics credit)

About the Symposium
Lawyers, out of necessity, reduce life to words, but as we do so, we run the risk of losing track of the meaning of the words. In 1994, the federal government passed milestone legislation in theViolence Against Women Act. Now twenty years later, Widener Law School invites all those who are interested in the lives of women to gather to reflect on the meaning of “violence” in the lives of poor and minority women and to consider how lives too often described by words like “wounded,”“isolated,” and “abandoned” can become stories of hope, power, and transcendence.

In addition to words, the law also has statistics about women and domestic violence. We even have statistics that indicate that women of color are substantially more likely to experience domestic violence. But have such statistics called us to action, or have they invited our complacency? Has our ability to quantify the extent of the “problem” encouraged us to forget the depth of the wound each problem inflicts in a woman’s life?

This year’s Diversity Forum promises to be an opportunity to seek answers to these questions as well as others. Has the graphic horror of some forms of violence blinded us to the more subtle and less visible forms of violence that wound women in our society? Do we sufficiently realize the damage that has been done when a woman’s relationships have led her to believe that physical abuse must be a part of “love” or when a mother’s circumstances have forced her to accept that it is more likely that her child will spend his twenties in prison than in college? And if we do so realize, do such realizations sufficiently affect our actions and our laws?

Panel One—Prison, Foster Care and the Systematic Punishment of Black Mothers — Experts warn foster care leads to prison and the incarceration of parents leads to foster care for their children.Thus, the case has been made together these two systems create a cycle that “punish[es] black mothers” and “preserv[es] U.S. race, gender, and class inequality.” This panel will consider how the prison and foster care systems actually work in the lives of poor women of color and whether those systems can better serve the Commonwealth and some of its most marginalized citizens.

Panel Two—Why Simple Words Can’t Suffice: Violence and Women of Color — Laws seek to end “violence against women,” but do those laws appreciate the lives of women of color sufficiently to stop the wounds or to heal them? This panel will consider whether the word “violence” is big enough to convey what is experienced in the lives of too many women of color and whether the legal system is prepared to offer those women a future defined by hope.

[ Download the Registration and Brochure PDF ]

  • Tuesday, October 14, 2014
  • 8:30 am -12:30 pm 
  • 3 CLE Credits (including 1 ethics credit)

The program has been approved for three continuing legal education credits for attorneys in Pennsylvania and Delaware, including one ethics credit.
  • The cost to attend for credits is $75 and includes lunch.
  • The program is open to the general public at a cost of $35.
  • Students may attend at no cost, without lunch or materials.
To register, or for more information, contact Sandra L. Graeff at 717.541.3965 or