It was as simple as pitching a story. Olivia Little has long enjoyed reading feminist and progressive magazines and blogs. Inspired by President Trump’s proposed budget, which included significant reductions in funding for programs associated with the Violence Against Women Act, she decided to see if Ms. Magazine was interested in what she had to say. That led to publication of her first blog post, “The Abuser-in-Chief’s Budget.”
Around The School
Her most recent piece, “Connecting the Dots between Domestic Violence and Gun Violence,” which appeared on the Ms. Magazine blog in October 2017, has been seen by hundreds of people. Not bad for a junior studying law and public policy at SPEA.
Using connections she made through SPEA and her volunteer work, she arranged to have a meaningful conversation with SPEA professor Paul Helmke and Sarah Hunt, the outreach communications coordinator at Middle Way House, a domestic violence shelter in Bloomington. They talked about the link between domestic violence and mass shootings.
Composed in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, Little’s post is a Q&A dealing with gun legislation and lobbying, the intersection of domestic violence and gun deaths, and toxic masculinity.
Little posed the question, “Why is federal legislation not being enacted to prevent abusers from owning/ obtaining firearms if we know for a fact that there’s such a strong correlation between mass shooting perpetrators and domestic abusers?”
Here’s the response from Helmke – the former president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence: “We’ve gotten to a stage in this country with the mass shootings, which are the only times people pay attention, people always say: now is not the time. But these shootings are occurring on a daily basis. A large number of those are domestic violence situations.”
Unfortunately, the relevance has not faded in the months since, in the shadow of such tragedies as occurred in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and Rancho Tehama in California.
As a crisis line volunteer at the Middle Way House, Little has come face-to-face with the realities of domestic violence. She is trained to assist in crisis management by being a survivor’s advocate, ready to provide comfort, assurance, and support through those crucial first hours. She signs up for a shift every week answering the crisis line and assisting those who have already made the decision to leave and are sheltering at the Middle Way House.
For Little, being involved in something she’s so passionate about is second nature. Bloomington radio listeners can hear that passion in her weekly segments on feminist issues on WIUX – a student run radio station. “One should always be involved in the community where they’re living, regardless of what else they do,” she said. “There’s always time.”
Feminism is still very much relevant, Little said, as each day a new allegation of a powerful man sexually assaulting a woman comes to light, each story perhaps offering a little more courage for the those who have yet to speak out.
“A feminist is someone who believes in and advocates for equality regardless of sex, race, gender identity or socioeconomic status in an effort to pursue progress,” Little said. “Under this administration, there is more of a need for it now than ever.” The future of feminism, Little said, is an inclusiveness that ensures everybody is given a chance to fight for freedom from oppression and discrimination.
The future for the Logansport, Indiana, native, who is also a licensed substitute teacher, may include graduate school. Little completed her high school career at The Indiana Academy, an experimental boarding school on the campus of Ball State University, before attending SPEA to work toward her Bachelor of Science in Public Affairs, with a minor in education policy.
For those who are wondering whether their ideas are good enough to be published by their favorite outlets, Little offered some advice. “If you can write, if you can story tell, you can publish. Search for a platform. Be proactive. Email and make connections,” she said. “It’s about having a worthwhile story to tell.”
Helmke said students like Little motivate him and keep him grounded. “After spending nearly all of my 69 years of life in and around politics and government (including 12 years as mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and five years as head of the Brady Center and Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence), it is easy for me to get frustrated and cynical about the current state of progress and discourse on so many public issues,” he said. “But when I get the chance to teach and work with students like Olivia Little, from my class on “Legal History and Public Policy” which focuses on protest and dissent, or the students in my Civic Leaders Center, I am encouraged by the passionate activism and intensity from so many who want to do their part to make this a better world. I’ve now been at SPEA for five years, and these students – who care so much about public policy, civic engagement and learning the skills to ‘lead for the greater good’ – are why I’m optimistic, and excited, about the future.”