A Call For Help

helo

Hi everybody!

I have a special request today-one that is of utmost importance. And sensitivity.

If you, or anyone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, rape or abuse of that nature AND feel comfortable talking about it (anonymously is fine) I need your/their help.

I don’t know how many of you recall, but I mentioned that I was entering my IMADTTO (I Made A Difference To That One) proposal into the President’s Prize review. I have been selected (with others) to move to round two (out of three). For round two, I must come up with a timeline and some other things. And here’s where I could use some help.

What things (resources, technology, support, programs, ideas, etc) would have been helpful in your traumatic event? What do you wish there would have been but wasn’t? What suggestions do you have for prevention? What would you like to see changed in the reporting/justice system? What factors impacted your decision to report/stay silent? What information did you not have that you wish you did? What coping mechanisms work best for you?

This project, to give an overview, is a response to collegiate rape statistics-with implications for ALL rape and sexual assault victims. I have plans to go into high schools and talk about body positivity. Plans to make a mandatory education module for my college (which can then be used at other colleges). Plans to make an application/link with existing ones to better educate the public (and alert students to the areas which aren’t safe on campus). Plans to make small support groups which will be other survivors, who can be there for “trigger” days. Plans to make children’s books about body safety and positivity.

These are the ideas of both myself and a beautiful friend who has also been concerned. But we are just two people. What I know is that everyone experiences trauma differently. And you may recall that I mentioned how of the statistic (depending on sources) is 1:6 college aged women will experience this, but that when I looked at 5 of my female friends, way more than 1 had been assaulted. This is a problem I take very personally-because when it happened to me, I didn’t know it was sexual assault. I blamed myself. I never went forward.

And that has to stop. Women need to be protected under the law. And I will be a leader in that movement. I live close to the statehouse. I have access to a large university worth of resources. I just need to know what to focus my attention on. And that is why I need people to help me.

Any thoughts are appreciated-whether the survivor was a college age or not. Tell me what you feel works. What doesn’t. Becuase when I go to submit round two, I will be submitting (perhaps) the most important proposal I may ever turn in-in my life. I am using my experiences, my voice, to be the “change I want to see in the world”. I don’t want to grow up in (or raise children in) a world that defines women as “less than”-or tells men that this can’t happen to them because they are men.

If you, or a friend, wish to talk about this (and I don’t need details-unless you WANT to give them) you can reach me at my email: anthromichelle@outlook.com

Everything I receive will be anonymous, I will share nothing without consent. (Waiver: If I receive an email full of suicidal ideation or threats of harm to others I have to report that. Because I care.)

Also, if you have thoughts in general-ideas you think might be beneficial in this fight, I won’t turn those away! I will take what I can get and make it into something magnificent.

Thanks!

Oh and a quick side note: Rapist Brock Turner (the Stanford guy) is coming back to Ohio this weekend. I am not pleased, but I will also be actively fighting to make legislation more strict.

This One’s For You

I’ve been talking for months now about women, safety and health, as an entity. But it was mentioned to me that perhaps just as I did not know everything about sexual assault, others may not know where to turn for information or help. So I present to you the work of an entire work shift plus some. I’ve spent my entire day looking up resources, trying to find places that help, educate and guide victims of sexual abuse as well as bystanders. I have found safety shelters, mental health sites, alternatives to Planned Parenthood, what happens to cases that are taken to court and other things. I just want the information to be out there. I tried my best to help others. But there is one site that I need to mention by name. I looked up the price of a rape kit, and I have to be honest, I am outraged. So for EVERYONE, please look at the first website and you will see what I mean. ( Find it here.) As a precaution, I have done my best to compile this list, but I am not perfect. If a link doesn’t work, or if it leads somewhere fishy, please let me know so I can update the list. And if there is anything you think I’ve missed, drop a comment! I alphabetized these as best I could (apart from these first 4.)

 

Planned Parenthood Alternative Finder: Get Your Care

Planned Parenthood: Home Page

What Happens to Rape Kits: End the Backlog

The Marshall Project: Rape Kit Facts

Resources for Victims

A

  • AEquitas AEquitas is a resource for prosecutors to improve the quality of justice in sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking, and human trafficking cases.
  • Agent of Change Agent of Change is an interactive, online violence prevention training tool.
  • American Association of University Women The AAUW is an advocacy and empowerment organization for women and girls.
  • Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center: The center serves abused Americans, mostly women and children, in both civilian and military populations overseas. In addition to providing domestic violence advocacy, safety planning and case management, the center assists victims with relocation, emergency funds for housing and childcare, and funds for payment of legal fees.
  • Arte Sana Arte Sana is a national Latina-led nonprofit committed to ending sexual violence and other forms of gender-based aggressions and engage marginalized communities as agents of change.
  • Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence The Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence is a national resource center on domestic violence, sexual violence, trafficking, and other forms of gender-based violence in Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
  • Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling: Directory of LGBT-friendly mental health specialists across the United States. Specialists listed are verified members of AGLBTIC, a division of the American Counseling Association.
  • Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers ATSA offers an annual conference, fact sheets, and other materials for professionals working with adults, adolescents, or children.  In particular they have two summaries, one about adolescents and one about children that provide an overview of the issues facing this population.
  • Attorney Referral Line: Refers callers to attorneys in their geographic area who can represent them in their pursuit of civil claims and victim restitution. The referral line is not an anonymous service. Their website also gives information about civil lawsuits. Phone: 202-467-8716

B

C

  • The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault This coalition offers technical assistance to campuses in order to develop effective coordinated community responses that prevent and respond to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.
  • Campus Clarity Campus Clarity provides online training programs for students and universities.
  • Campus Outreach Services: Offer information and expertise to schools on sexual violence, diversity, sexual harassment, bullying, hate crimes, healthy relationships, assertiveness, eating disorders, suicide, and related risk issues.
  • Casa de Esperanza Casa de Esperanza is a national resource center on domestic violence in the Latina community, with a mission to mobilize Latinas and Latino communities to end domestic violence. Their work includes community building, as well as direct advocacy and resources for victims of domestic violence in Latina communities.
  • CAVANET: This organization addresses violence against women, human rights, genocide, and crime victims with disabilities.
  • CenterLink The community of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Centers exist to support the development of strong, sustainable LGBT community centers and to build a unified center movement. CenterLink works with other national organizations to advance the rights of LGBT individuals and to provide LGBT community centers with information and analysis of key issues
  • The Center For Disease Control National Prevention Information Network (AIDS/HIV, STI Information): U.S. reference, referral, and distribution service for information on HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Hotline: 800-458-5231
  • Child Help: Speak Up Be Safe: Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe is a newly developed, school-based, child abuse prevention education program that focuses on child safety. It is an evolution of Good Touch Bad Touch.
  • The Clery Center for Security on Campus The Clery Center educates and trains campus stakeholders about safety, prevention, peer intervention and Clery Act compliance. Clery Act compliance requires an understanding of counting and collecting crime statistics, emergency notification and timely warning policy, generation of an annual security report, and adherence to the campus sexual assault victim bill of rights.
  • Coaching Boys Into Men Playbook (Copyright © Family Violence Prevention Fund) This guidebook provides strategies for parents, teachers, coaches, and other role models to teach boys about violence against women in an effort to prevent it.
  • Community Health Centers The Health Resources and Services Administration operates health centers in most cities and rural areas, and offers well-checks, treatment, pre-natal care, immunization, dental care, prescriptions, and mental health and substance abuse care. These health centers do not require patients to have health insurance and charge patients what they can afford based on income.
  • Connect Directory The National Center’s Connect Directoryprovides a fast and easy way for victims to locate service providers specializing in specific areas of victimization in a wide variety of jurisdictions throughout the country. Users enter information into a simple form which is used to pull up contact information for service providers nearby who can help.
  • Culture of Respect Culture of Respect is a nonprofit organization strengthening sexual assault prevention efforts on college campuses.

D

  • Darkness to Light: They provide crisis intervention and referral services to children or people affected by sexual abuse of children. Hotline calls are automatically routed to a local center. Helpline: 866-FOR-LIGHT (367-5444)
  • The Date Safe Project: The DATE SAFE Project, Inc. provides positive how-to skills and helpful insights for addressing verbal consent (asking first), respecting of boundaries, sexual decision-making, bystander intervention, and supporting survivors (opening the door for family and friends).
  • Deaf Abused Women’s Network(DAWN): Legal, medical, system advocacy and survivor support services. Video Phone: 202-559-5366
  • Department of Defense (“DoD”) Safe Helpline
    Hotline: 877-995-5247
    Offers crisis support service for members of the DoD (military) community affected by sexual assault. It provides live, one-on-one advice, support, and information to the worldwide DoD community. The service is anonymous, secure, and available 24/7 – providing victims with the help they need, anytime, anywhere.
  • gov This resource connects people with disabilities, their families and caregivers to helpful resources on such topics as how to apply for disability benefits, find a job, get health care, or pay for accessible housing.
  • Domestic Shelters https://www.domesticshelters.org/, a project of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), and Theresa’s Fund, provides abuse victims, their friends and family, and agencies, with the most comprehensive, searchable database housing more than 300,000 data points on more than 3,000 domestic violence shelters, agencies and programs in the U.S.

E

  • East Central University East Central University offers both executive/administrative peer-to-peer technical assistance, education and training to help grantees meet the mandatory law enforcement training component of the Campus Program. Serves as a mentor to campuses and their law enforcement/security departments and governing boards.
  • End Rape on Campus: An advocacy organization dedicated to assisting students file Title IX complaints.
  • Every Choice This online resource offers video-based bystander intervention training.

F

G

  • Get Help Bulletins GetHelp Bulletinsprovide information on a wide range of topics, including the impact of crime, victims’ rights, and the criminal and civil justice processes. The bulletins also include resources for victims, their families, and friends.
  • GirlThrive: Girlthrive Inc. honors teen girls and young women who have survived incest and all sex abuse through thriverships, opportunity and education.
  • GLBTQ Domestic Violence Project: Website, information and hotline for GLBTQ victims of domestic violence and their families. Hotline: 800-832-1901
  • GLBT National Hotline: Call center that refers to over 15,000 resources across the country that support LGBTQ individuals. Hotline: 888-THE-GLNH (843-4564)
  • org: GoodTherapy.org is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries worldwide who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.
  • Green Dot Green Dot offers training institutes and campus-specific consultation that is research informed, data supported and consistent with the mandatory prevention and education component of the Campus Program. Helps campuses mobilize a broad-base of their communities in prevention efforts.

H

  • Haven—Understanding Sexual Assault Online training for college students on sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking.
  • Healthcare Center Directory: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services maintains a Healthcare Center Directory. This directory lists federally funded health centers that provide a variety of services even if the recipient does not have health insurance. Users pay a co-payment based on their income. These health centers generally provide primary care services. Phone: 877-464-4772
  • Health Cares About IPV Health Cares about IPV is a federally funded program that provides training and technical assistance to over 22,000 health care professionals working to implement best practices for treating intimate partner violence (IPV) and dating violence survivors, including new guidelines to screen for abuse and refer patients to services.
  • Health Resources and Services Administration The Health Resources and Services Administration provides information from the Health Resources and Services Administration on the National LGBT Health Education Center health disparities, and links to additional resources.
  • Hope Exists After Rape Trauma: The mission of Hope Exists After Rape Trauma (H-E-A-R-T) is to provide HOPE for victims of sexual assault through the provision of essential and therapeutic support, by affecting positive change in laws influencing their lives, and by educating both the public and professionals commissioned to serve victims.

I

  • International Association of Forensic Nurses: An international membership organization comprised of forensic nurses working around the world and other professionals who support and complement the work of forensic nursing.
  • International Sexual Assault Centers
    Web: http://rainn.org/get-help/sexual-assault-and-rape-international-resources
    The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) has a list of sexual assault and domestic violence centers in 19 countries. Click on the link above to see if one is listed for the country you are in.
  • Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community The Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community focuses on African Americans as they face issues related to domestic violence and intimate partner violence, including dating violence, child abuse, elder maltreatment, and community violence.
  • It Happened to Alexa Foundation: It Happened to Alexa Foundation
    411 Center Street
    Lewiston NY, 14092
    Phone: (716) 754-9105
    Phone: 877-77-ALEXA (25392)
    Fax: (716) 754-4676
    Web: http://ithappenedtoalexa.org/
    The purpose of the It Happened to Alexa Foundation is to help support rape survivors through the trauma of the criminal trial, in the hopes that more survivors will go through with the prosecution in order to put these perpetrators behind bars. Established in 2003, the foundation assists rape victims’ families throughout the United States with travel expenses during the litigation process.

J

  • com: This site has articles that discuss the effects of child sexual abuse on adult men and their loved ones.
  • Joyful Heart Foundation Joyful Heart Foundation is a national organization dedicated to healing, educating, and empowering survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse.
  • Justice for Children: Provides a full range of advocacy services for abused and neglected children.

K

  • Know Your IX: Provides information for students about their Title IX rights in regards to ending sexual violence on campus.

L

  • The Laws in Your State: A database of state laws including mandatory reporting, confidentiality laws, HIV/AIDS testing of sexual offenders, termination of rapists’ parental rights, and statutes of limitations for each state.
  • LGBTQ Health This resource offers information and resources tailored to perspectives and needs of the LGBTQ population who are at increased risk for a number of health threats when compared to their heterosexual peers. Differences in sexual behavior account for some of these disparities, but others are associated with social and structural inequities, such as the stigma and discrimination. This resource is produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • The Line Campaign The Line Campaign is a nonprofit organization and movement committed to empowering young leaders to create a world without sexual violence.
  • Locator http://locator.aids.gov Find publicly supported health services including health centers, mental health providers, family planning centers, and substance abuse treatment providers.

M

  • org: This site has information and a therapist search for male survivors of sexual violence. MaleSurvivor
    Web: http://www.malesurvivor.org
    MaleSurvivor provides critical resources to male survivors of sexual trauma and all their partners in recovery by building communities of Hope, Healing, & Support. Services include: Online discussion forums for male survivors and their partners, Online therapist directory, professionally facilitated healing retreats and workshops for survivors,and training for professional across disciplines.
  • Men Can Stop Rape Men Can Stop Rape offers individualized training and technical assistance to grantees on engaging men in the prevention of gender based violence. Trainings can include, but are not limited to: Coordinated Community Response team trainings on effective approaches to engaging men in prevention activities, training, and community awareness; workshops for campus students on raising awareness about rape as a men’s issue; and general information to OVW Campus Program grantees.
  • Midwest Regional Children’s Advocacy Center This CAC provides training and technical assistance resources for communities to develop Multidisciplinary Child Abuse Teams and Children’s Advocacy Centers in the Midwest.
  • The Mississippi Coalition Against Sexual Assault This coalitions provides comprehensive training that focuses on developing and implementing campus policies, protocols, and training programs for hearing officers and disciplinary boards to ensure more effective responses to the crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking on campus.

N

  • National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV) This alliance is a national advocacy organization representing state coalitions and local programs organizing against sexual violence and for survivors.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness(NAMI): Provides information and referral services, not counseling. Helpline: 888-950-NAMI (6264)
  • National Adolescent Perpetrator Network at the Kempe Center NAPN hosts an annual conference for those working with adolescents or children who have sexually abused.
  • National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence
    Phone: 512.407.9020 Web: http://www.ncdsv.org Email: Debby Tucker, Executive Director, dtucker@ncdsv.org The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence designs, provides, and customizes training and consultation; influences policy; promotes collaboration; and enhances diversity with the goal of ending domestic and sexual violence. This organization sponsors national and regional conferences and co-chairs the U.S. Department of Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence (DTFDV). Provides military specific information for victims of domestic violence. They do not provide crisis services to victims.
  • National Center for Sexual Behavior in Youth This website is funded through an Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) grant and provides Information for parents of youths with sexual behavior problems.  The website will have information for professionals and others working with these youths in the coming months.
  • The National Center for Victims of Crime 
    Suite 480 2000 M Street, NW Washington DC, 20036-3398
    Hotline: 800-FYI-CALL Phone: 202-467-8700 Fax: 202-467-8757
    Web: http://www.ncvc.org The National Center for Victims of Crime is a nonprofit organization advocating for all victims of crime – adults and children. They educate child victims about their rights and the recent provisions that have been established to protect them. The National Victim Center has a toll-free number that acts as a referral service for children who have been exploited.
  • National Child Abuse Hotline: They can provide local referrals for services. A centralized call center provides the caller with the option of talking to a counselor. They are also connected to a language line that can provide service in over 140 languages. Hotline: 800-4-A-CHILD (422-2253)
  • National Children’s Advocacy Center This Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) coordinates national prevention and intervention services, while serving as the local CAC for Huntsville, Alabama.
  • National Children’s Alliance: This organization represents the national network of Child Advocacy Centers (CAC). CACs are a multidisciplinary team of law enforcement, mental and physical health practitioners who investigate instances of child physical and sexual abuse. Their website explains the process and has a directory according to geographic location.
  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) NCTSN is a national organization funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that provides resources and information for families with children who are survivors of sexual assault.
  • National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs: A coalition of programs that document and advocate for victims of anti-LGBT and anti-HIV/AIDS violence/harassment, domestic violence, sexual assault, police misconduct and other forms of victimization. Site has a list of local anti-violence programs and publications. Hotline: 212-714-1141
  • National Crime Victim Bar Associationis a network of attorneys and allied professionals dedicated to facilitating civil actions brought by crime victims. Crime victims may be able to file civil lawsuits against perpetrators and responsible third parties for the damages the victims suffered as a result of the crime.
  • National Disability Rights Network: NDRN members investigate reports of abuse and neglect, and seek systemic change to prevent further incidents; advocate for basic rights; and ensure accountability in health care, education, employment, housing, transportation, and within the juvenile and criminal justice systems for individuals with disabilities.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: Through this hotline an advocate can provide local direct service resources (safehouse shelters, transportation, casework assistance) and crisis intervention. Interpreter services available in 170 languages. They also partner with the Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Center to provide a videophone option. Hotline: 800-799-SAFE
  • National Eating Disorder Helpline: Information, crisis and referral hotline for people dealing with eating disorders. Helpline: 800-931-2237
  • National Human Trafficking Resource Center:A national multilingual anti-trafficking hotline. Caller can report a tip; connect with anti-trafficking services in their area; or request training and technical assistance, general information, or specific anti-trafficking resources. Hotline: 888-373-7888
  • National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) This national social change organization is dedicated to creating a social, political and economic environment in which violence against women no longer exists.
  • National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women: VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence hosts a resource library home of thousands of materials on violence against women and related issues, with particular attention to its intersections with various forms of oppression.
  • National Organization of Asians and Pacific Islanders Ending Sexual Violence (NAPIESV) This national advocacy organization provides technical assistance to culturally and linguistically specific organizations that are currently serving or attempting to serve victims of sexual assault in Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
  • National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault (SCESA) This national advocacy organization supports and advocates for women of color and organizations by and for communities of color.
  • National Organization for Victim Assistance: Founded in 1975, NOVA is the oldest national victim assistance organization of its type in the United States as the recognized leader in this noble cause.
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: National hotline, operated by RAINN, that serves people affected by sexual violence. It automatically routes the caller to their nearest sexual assault service provider. You can also search your local center here. Hotline: 800-656-HOPE
  • National Sexual Violence Resource Center: This site offers a wide variety of information relating to sexual violence including a large legal resource library.
  • National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s Campus Sexual Violence Resource List This list includes resources for administrators, student activists, and law enforcement, on such topics as primary prevention on campus, crime statistics, and training tools.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Provides crisis suicide intervention, self-harm counseling and assistance, and local mental health referrals. Calls are routed to local centers. Hotline: 800-273-TALK (8255) and for the Spanish line call 888-628-9454 or TTY: 800-799-4TTY (4889)
  • National Teen Dating Abuse Online Helpline: This online helpline assists teens who are, or may be, in abusive relationships.\National Coalition against Domestic Violence: The national coalition of Domestic Violence organizations is dedicated to empowering victims and changing society to a zero tolerance policy.
  • National Violence against Women Prevention Research Center: Sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this website to be useful to scientists, practitioners, advocates, grassroots organizations, and any other professional or layperson interested in current topics related to violence against women and its prevention.
  • National Women’s Health Information Center
    Phone: 1-800-994-9662 Web: http://www.4woman.gov/violence/index.cfm?page=91
    Website provides lots of information, resources and links.
  • Native Youth Sexual Health Network The Native Youth Sexual Health Network provides culturally relevant resources and has developed a comprehensive online directory of Two Spirit organizations and social media tools for the LGBTQ community.
  • NEARI Press In addition to books, this nonprofit offers free webinars, free online courses and a monthly newsletter about current research for professionals working with children and/or youth with sexual behavior problems.
  • the Network la Red: The Network/La Red hotline provides emotional support, information, and safety planning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and/or transgender folks, as well as folks in the BDSM or Polyamorous communities who are being abused or have been abused by a partner. Support available in English and Spanish. Hotline: 617-742-4911
  • Northeast Regional Children’s Advocacy Center This CAC provides training and technical assistance resources for communities to develop Multidisciplinary Child Abuse Teams and Children’s Advocacy Centers in the Northeast.
  • The Northwest Network The NW Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse works to end violence and abuse by building loving and equitable relationships in our community and across the country.
  • NotAlone.gov: A government website dedicated to educating students and schools about Title IX and sexual assault.

O

  • The Office on Women’s Health This webpage includes information on: what rape and sexual assault are; health effects; how to get help; how to stay safe; and where to find more information.
  • OK2TALK OK2TALK encourages teens and young adults struggling with mental health problems to talk about what they’re experiencing by sharing their personal stories of recovery, tragedy, struggle or hope.

P

  • Pandora’s Project Web: http://www.pandorasproject.org/
    Provides information, support, and resources to survivors of rape and sexual abuse and their friends and family. Pandora’s Project offers peer support to anyone who has been a victim of rape, sexual assault, or sexual abuse through our online support group, Pandora’s Aquarium. Pandora’s Project offers message boards where sexual violence survivors participate in healing discussions and a chat room, where victims of sex crimes can discuss healing-related issues in a safe and supportive atmosphere.
  • Parent Centers Local Parent Centers can connect families with local resources to more effectively address the educational, counseling, and medical needs of youth with disabilities.
  • Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victims Center
    Hotline: 631-689-2672 1(888)ASK-PFML Web: http://www.parentsformeganslaw.org
    Email: pfmeganslaw@aol.com Parents for Megan’s Law, Inc. is a national community and victim’s rights organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of childhood sexual abuse through the provision of education, advocacy, counseling, policy and legislative support services. They are a certified Rape Crisis Center and staff the National Megan’s Law Hotline and the National Sex Offender Registration Tips Program.
  • PreventConnect: The goal of PreventConnect is to advance the primary prevention of sexual assault and relationship violence by building a community of practice among people who are engaged in such efforts.
  • Project HER:  Engage. Respond.
    Sexual Assault staff is trained to provide support to women veterans who have experienced any form of sexual assault before, during, or after their military service.  Project HER is committed to creating a safe environment to build a community of support for women who have served in the military. A wide variety of services are offered free of charge.
    For questions or to be connected to a sexual assault counselor, please call: (714) 834-4317
  • Project Respect: Project Respect aims to create discussions and share a positive alternative model of relationships for youth.
  • org Web: http://www.promotetruth.org Support and information about sexual violence issues for teens and their communities
  • Psychology Today: Find detailed professional listings for treatment centers in the United States and Canada.

R

  • Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) RAINN is a national advocacy organization that operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline. 2000 L Street NW
    Suite 406 Washington DC, 20036
    Hotline: (800) 656-HOPE Phone: (202) 544-1034 Web: http://www.rainn.org
    Email: info@RAINN.org Provides information, help and resources throughout the country, and a helpline.
  • The Red Flag Campaign The Red Flag Campaign is a public awareness campaign designed to address dating violence and promote the prevention of dating violence on college campuses.
  • Resource Sharing Project (RSP) RSP provides technical assistance, support, and the dissemination of peer-driven resources for all state and territorial sexual assault coalitions.

S

  • Safe Dates This program is designed to prevent the initiation of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse on dates or between individuals in a dating relationship; Designed for use by eighth and ninth grade students.
  • Safe Helpline: Department of Defense (DoD) Safe Helpline is a groundbreaking crisis support service for members of the DoD community affected by sexual assault. Safe Helpline provides live, one-on-one support and information to the worldwide DoD community. The service is confidential, anonymous, secure, and available worldwide, 24/7 by click, call or text — providing victims with the help they need anytime, anywhere. Hotline: 877-995-5247
  • Safer Society Foundation The Safer Society Foundation is dedicated to ending sexual abuse by promoting effective prevention and best-practice treatment for sexual abusers and their victims.
  • Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE): The SANE/SART program offers sensitive, caring, and supportive care following a sexual assault. Their website provides a list of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) programs in each state. These specialists are registered nurses, who have advanced education in forensic examination of sexual assault victims. To locate the nearest SANE program, click here.
  • Sexual Violence Justice Institute This institute is a national resource for expertise in the criminal justice response to sexual violence.
  • Shifting Boundaries Shifting Boundaries is a classroom and school wide intervention designed to reduce dating violence and sexual harassment among middle school students.
  • Sidran Traumatic Stress Foundation: The Sidran Institute provides information on traumatic stress (including PTSD), dissociative disorders, and co-occurring issues such as addictions, self-injury, and suicidal behaviors.
  • Stalking Resource Center: The Stalking Resource Center is a program of the National Center for Victims of Crime. Their website provides statistics on stalking, information on safety planning and other resources.
  • State, Territorial and Tribal Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Coalitions Sexual assault and domestic violence coalitions often maintain statewide crisis lines and link to local service providers and local crisis lines. These coalitions are excellent resources for information about sexual assault and the options available in your state.
  • Stop It Now: Provides information to victims and parents/relatives/friends of child sexual abuse. The site also has resources for offender treatment as well as information on recognizing the signs of child sexual abuse. Hotline: 888-PREVENT (773-8368)
  • Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER) SAFER is an organization dedicated to empowering students to hold their universities accountable for having strong campus sexual assault policies and programming.
  • Student Success’s Sexual Assault Prevention program Student Success works with over 300 colleges and universities, creating research-driven, video-based online prevention programs that resonate with students intellectually, socially, and emotionally.
  • Survivors of Incest Anonymous: They provide information on how to find incest survivor support groups in your area and empowers individuals to become survivors and thrivers.
  • SurvJustice SurvJustice decreases the prevalence of sexual violence by assisting survivors, empowering activists, and supporting institutions.

T

  • Take Back The Night Foundation: Legal support for survivors in every state. Referrals to counseling, support, legal aid, hospitals, and nearest TBTN Event Holders. Hotline: 866-966-9013 Take Back the Night Foundation
    Phone: 888-995-1113 Web: http://takebackthenight.org/
    The Take Back the Night Foundation serves over 600 communities around the world in their efforts to raise awareness through rallies, walks, marches, and vigils. We support survivors of all forms of sexual violence. We are comprised of all volunteers. Our website provides information about how to hold and event and offers a comprehensive manual for organizers; offers a place for survivors to share their stories and read about the experiences of other sexual assault survivors. We are inclusive to all and offer webinars for survivors, a survivor voice-quilt, art and music and other ways for survivors to heal. We also are associated with a national law firm, which can provide free legal assistance to help you understand your options in the justice system.
  • That’s Not Cool That’s Not Cool provides tools for addressing dating violence through social media.
  • The Voices and Faces Project
    Web: http://www.voicesandfaces.org/index.asp
    Giving voice and face to rape survivors, offering a sense of solidarity and possibility to those who have lived through abuse, while raising awareness of how this human rights and public health issue impacts victims, families and communities.
  • Top Health Issues for LGBT Populations Information and Resource Kit This kit includes information from the Health Resources and Services Administration on the National LGBT Health Education Center health disparities, and links to additional resources.
  • The Trevor Project: Help and suicide prevention for GBLTQ youth. Hotline: 866-488-7386
  • Tribal Court Clearinghouse
  • This website serves as a resource for American Indian and Alaska Native Nations, include laws and publications on sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence, and more.

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  • U.S. Department of Justice Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Complaint Line: Call to report suspected instances of human trafficking or worker exploitation or contact the FBI field office nearest you. Offers foreign language translation services in most languages as well as TTY. After business hours, the complaint line has a message service in English, Spanish, Russian, and Mandarin. Hotline: 888-428-7581

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  • vawnet.org This website is a source for information about intervention, prevention, perpetration, education and awareness, advocacy, program development, and population-specific approaches to sexual assault.
  • VictimConnect The VictimConnect Resource Centeris a place for crime victims to learn about their rights and options confidentially and compassionately. A program of the National Center for Victims of Crime, it combines:  A traditional telephone-based helpline: 855-4-VICTIM (855-484-2846) An innovative online chat: VictimConnect.org  Web-based information and service referrals:VictimConnect.org With extensive specialized training, our Victim Assistance Specialists stand ready to help crime victims understand their rights and options, find information and connect with resources, access referrals, and craft next steps to regain control over their lives.
  • Victim Rights Law Center The Victim Rights Law Center provides national training for attorneys and advocates on issues of sexual assault.
  • Violence against Women with Disabilities
  • The Office on Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides publications, websites, and organizations especially designed to address the unique challenges that women with disabilities face.

W

  • Walk a Mile in Her Shoes This international men’s march is a campaign to stop rape, sexual assault, and gender violence.
  • Western Regional Children’s Advocacy Center This CAC provides training and technical assistance resources for communities to develop Multidisciplinary Child Abuse Teams and Children’s Advocacy Centers in the West.
  • org: Information about restraining orders and other legal protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Y

  • Yes ICAN
    Web: http://www.yesican.org/chat.html
    The Yes ICAN chatroom is to be used by individuals who wish to discuss issues around surviving child abuse, parenting and domestic violence. The YesICAN chat room is available to those who need support. YesICAN chats are facilitated by trained facilitators. There are scheduled times for various subjects, including emotional abuse, incest, sibling abuse and physical abuse. Please go to their website for full details and the schedule.

#

  • 1 is 2 Many 1 is 2 Many is Vice President Biden’s initiative to change attitudes that lead to violence and educate the public on the realities of abuse.
  • 1in6(for men sexually abused as children): Provides educational information and resources for men, family and friends, and professionals. Also provides access to the online hotline.

 

International Women’s Day

Ah, today. My favorite interest group day during my favorite interest group month, as part of my favorite topic to discuss. I love being able to talk about women and their cultures, ideals and abilities. I’d thought about doing an interest piece about the Jenner/Kardashian news that’s been popping up, but then I thought-isn’t that kind of defeating the purpose of International Women’s Day? And I thought about doing a Hillary Clinton feature, and about women in power, but she’s already “equal” in many ways. So what do I want to talk about today? Mental Health? I could. Unnecessarily gendered goods? Possibly. But I think at the heart of today, there are two concepts which really embody what I want to focus on: respect and equality.

I had to read a book for one my classes (Women and Democracy) called “Companeras: Zapatista Women’s Stories”. A zapatista is a member or supporter of a Mexican revolutionary force working for social and agrarian reforms, which launched a popular uprising in the state of Chiapas in 1994. (Thanks, Google!)

zap

I know that seems kind of “old” news, but the story is actually really inspiring, and some of the quotes from the book are just phenomenal. The main point, from my understanding, is that the indigenous people of Chiapas wanted control over their own land, their own resources, and wanted the government and military powers to remove themselves. The women, although also heavily involved in this movement, went about things a little differently, collecting themselves for the ideas of equality, freedom and opportunity. Some of the quotes from the book are:

where indigenous communities have taken their destiny into their own hands, where villages find solutions to their economic problems by working collectively, where community members walk proudly…

The dignity with which these women carried themselves, set against a backdrop of centuries of racism and exploitation…

I know they seem a little disjointed, but the quotes themselves are part of the larger ideal of what I was explaining before. The next thing, is the outcome of this movement (specifically on the women’s side. This is the Women’s Revolutionary Law of 1994.

  1. Women, regardless of their race, creed, color or political affiliation, have the right to participate in the revolutionary struggle in any way that their desire and capacity determine.
  2. Women have the right to work and receive a fair salary.
  3. Women have the right to decide the number of children they have and care for.
  4. Women have the right to participate in the matters of the community and hold office if they are free and democratically elected.
  5. Women and their children have the right to Primary Attention in their health and nutrition.
  6. Women have the right to an education.
  7. Women have the right to choose their partner and are not obliged to enter into marriage.
  8. Women have the right to be free of violence from both relatives and strangers.
  9. Women will be able to occupy positions of leadership in the organization and hold military ranks in the revolutionary armed forces.
  10. Women will have all the rights and obligations elaborated in the Revolutionary Laws and regulations.

This next quote comes from a book called “Decolonizing Democracy” and I think it has the best potential to be a slogan which I will print on everything. It talks about when the (Indian) government should be doing for its people. I think it’s applicable to ALL governments.

dec

and at the same time provide safeguards for the fundamental rights of individuals and groups living in this country and for safeguarding the fundamental rights of minorities

So I was thinking, about all the women who have fought for their rights, their freedoms and their ability to live their lives as they see fit. I thought about all of the stories I had been told about female naval officers, pirates, warriors, samurais, wordsmiths, protesters, politicians, activists and leaders and realized that there is so much that has been done for women, by women.

But the fact remains that 1 in 3 girls (in developing nations) will be married as children.(girlsnotbrides.org)

One woman every hour in India will die a “dowry death” (death caused by a dispute in her dowry) (timesofindia.indiatimes.com)

The average life expectancy for a woman in Botswana is 33 years (America is 78). (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

68% of women in Bangladesh suffer (or have suffered in domestic abuse situations. The U.S. spends over $1 BILLION in domestic abuse related medical costs EACH YEAR. 28 cases are reported in Thailand each DAY. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

2% of women in Sierra Leone die in childbirth. That number is .01% in Canada (That’s 1% of 1% or 200 times less than Sierra Leone). (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

40 MILLION girls are missing from the world’s population due to son preference (most of these girls have probably been abandoned for dead or murdered). China makes up 30 million of that total. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

Ohio (where I am from) has the following statistics on sex trafficking:

-More than 1,000 children are trafficked around Ohio each year. This number does not include adults. (ohiobar.org)

-Only 289 cases were reported in 2015, most of whom were US citizens. (traffickingresourcecenter.org)

Up to 700,000 rapes occur in the United States each year. In Japan, only 5 of the 104 gang rapes reported had convictions in 2005. In Burma, marital rape is not a crime unless the victim is under 14. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

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So, although today is a day for celebrating women globally, we also need to be severely reminded that we have to fight harder, fight faster, to protect those very same women. We are half of the sky and we must hold each other higher. The first step, is education. To be aware is the only way to help.

 

The Signs Life Gives You

I had the absolute delight of speaking with a most beloved professor this week, and she helped (as always) put me back on track. I walked into her office, knowing full well that I really had no idea what I needed to talk about, but that I needed someone to hear me. I knew she was a source of great insight in the past, and that I hoped she would bring me the clarity that I so desperately needed. I feel like I need to get her something really nice when I graduate. Seriously. I literally walked into her office, cried for half our meeting and then ranted the other half. Anyway, she and I were discussing how the world I live in seems so different than the one I exist in everyday. I told her about the way in which my assignment turned into a fervent search for the truth, and my life’s destiny. She listened without hesitation, even when I had no words to use. She spoke to me with kindness about self-care and burning out of a career because you aren’t emotionally prepared for the repercussions, as well as dealing with the weight of other people’s stories. I came out of her office not only knowing myself a little better, but being thankful I didn’t decide to cancel on her today because I felt anxious that I didn’t know what to say.

I’d asked her about coming in to see her last week, when I was convinced that I knew what I needed to talk about. I told her that I needed some “life advice” and she told me she was free on Tuesday. I made an appointment, figured it was great and then the closer we got to Tuesday, the mroe I thought that perhaps I was making a mistake. I knew the week I’d been having, I knew that I was far too charged for my own good, and that perhaps I needed to just find a way to sort it out myself. That’s what being an adult is, right? Figuring out your answers by yourself? Turns out, that ideology is really stupid. Yes, you should try to make your own way in life. And yes, you should want to try to find the answers. But sometimes you are just too close to the problem. Sometimes you need to take a step back and ask someone who’s been there, and done that if you’re on the right track. The “Double Check” method. 

I find so often that I am surrounded by professors who have grown embittered by their jobs, their lack thereof or just the length of time that they have been doing the same thing day in and day out. And I understand. Anyone who has ever experienced “senioritis” understands. But she’s different. This professor isn’t bitter, isn’t malicious, and above all, she treats me as a real person with real problems and concerns. And I value that. I picked her, because well, to be honest, I didn’t. Life did. Do you ever feel that at some points in your life, you just stumble across a person who changes your outlook, like a gift from the universe as if to say:

I know you’re struggling, but if you let them, they will light your way.

And I love it when that happens. I don’t want to take advantage of her or anything, that is so not my intention. But I want to glean all I can from her, to make myself the best I can be. And the message was loud and clear.

Michelle, you need to focus on some self-care. You spend so much of your time worrying about the things in the world you want to change that you’ve saved so little love for yourself. It’s not good for you, or the people you want to help.

This year, the universe keeps reminding me of that. Over and over, subtly or straightforward. “Self-care”. I’ve discussed it with friends, I’ve seen it in passing on my Facebook feed, and now I’m hearing it more directly. So what am I not doing?

Well, more than just words, the universe has a way of getting my attention. This entire week I’ve had stomach problems. I feel so tired, so out of it and not myself. Okay, body, I’m listening. And I think maybe I’ve neglected myself a lot lately.

I met with my oldest, most wonderful friend yesterday and realized that the words which were ever so prevalent before could not be ignored any longer. And as I sat there, listening to her tell the story of her nursing program, her troubles during the semester and having her in turn listen to mine, I realized something further. Self-care doesn’t have to be alone-care. Human beings are social creatures and that means taking the time to gather those who mean the most to you and helping them to help you.

My point today isn’t to list all the ways I have let myself down. My point today is to tell others, through my struggle that they too need to look into their own lives and make sure the universe isn’t trying to tell you that you’re missing out on the best you that you can be. 

Is your health poor? Maybe you need to see a doctor.

Are your eating habits not good? Maybe you need to reexamine them. 

Need to take that mental health day? Do it.

Need to forgive yourself for a mistake? Do that ASAP.

Have you needed life advice? Spiritual guidance? Now’s the time.

Need to let someone in? That’s a great idea.

You are beautiful, you are worth it. And so am I.

Why Seeing Isn’t Always Believing

I don’t know about you, but I look through Pinterest and there are days when I get so revved up about what I see that I have to stop looking at it for a few hours, or I’ll keep going back to it and get all worked up. Especially when I look at the feminism stuff or mental illness pins. And I am very much for both of those sections. But you know as well as I do that any old fool can post things without having an inkling of knowledge to back up those words. And it is that ignorance that gets to me. So, let’s jump in the time machine and I will tell you all about why.

I’m a proud Pinterst fanatic. I have over 20 thousand pins. It’s taken LARGE amounts of my time to get that far, but I consider it an invaluable resource to my life. For those of you (are there any?) who don’t know what Pinterest is, it’s kind of like a networking site for ideas. You “Pin” ideas to a “board” and save recipes, DIY projects and so many things. But it can also be used for keeping ideas together. I belong to both camps. Today, I’m going to focus on how social media (specifically Pinterest) perpetuates incorrect information about mental illnesses and disorders: namely EDs (Eating Disorders).

I doubt there are in here, but I know how this works, so just in case.

***TRIGGER WARNING*** Some symptoms, stories and elements may cause flare ups of conditions. The author does not condone or suggest any actions which may cause bodily harm.

I know that if you go into Pinterest and type in “Eating Disorders” into the search bar, you will most likely get a different result list than I will. So I’m going to do this the only way I know how: screen shots! I will caption them with WHAT I want you to pay attention to and then WHY it’s important to today’s blog. This is going to be a personal one today, and I hope that means it helps more than I rant.

  
First off, I like this. I mean, I’m not really sure why I couldn’t immediately connect to Pinterest, but I’m ultimately glad I didn’t. And it goes to show, that the moment I try to prove my point, something inevitably happens that changes my mind. Sort of. So thank you, Pinterest for being on the ball. I appreciate that.

  
 
I want you to look at the top left “hand” picture AND the one right beside it. Those two pictures I am calling into question because although you cannot sum ANY disorder up into a single picture, these only scratch the surface. ALL of these pictures do. The focus is on being skinny. But this screen shot shows my point as well. Looks can be deceiving. And the truth is, you really may not ever know who you are until you break away all of the pieces you thought you were made of.

  
 
This time, focus on the gentleman , and the woman at opposite corners. The great thing is that it highlights men having EDs too; a topic we need to focus on more! The problem with the gentleman’s picture is the same as above: it focuses on the skinny issue. And granted you could argue that that is the “basis” of eating disorders, but I would argue it is merely a facet of some of them. The problem I have with the second one actually requires more than a caption so I’ll bump down a paragraph.

Yes you do. You absolutely do decide one day that that is the course of action you are going to take. It may be subtle, like backing off, extreme dieting or eating less and less. It may be abrupt and one day you just stop eating solids, or anything at all. But you DO decide it. And it basically happens in a day. You just can’t take the pressure or the shame or the guilt and you decide you’re going to do something about it.

I was 14 when I first started dabbling with EDs. Almost a decade later, I’m not sure I’m any better.

The first thing I tried was Bulimia. I can make myself purge on demand and I enjoyed the taste of food so I thought: At least I can still taste the things I love. But the thing is, I HATE puking. I really do. And no matter how much I convinced myself that it would help, I dreaded each meal for the sole reason that I would have to throw it up. I maybe lasted in this phase a grand total of 2 weeks. Any extraneous symptoms were not entirely present. (Or had been present BEFORE onset.)

  

So I moved to Anorexia. By the “height” of my time in this disorder, I was only eating an apple a day and that is why I became a caffeine addict. I fought so hard to stay awake every day. And since I have many years worth of experience in this disorder, let me tell you some things.

  

First. While the motivation to be skinny is a big draw into this disorder, it isn’t the thing that keeps you there. You become trapped, like you cannot stop. You feel like it’s your life now and that is all there will ever be. And did I mind that my collar bone stuck out, that my ribs were exceptionally visible? I lived for those signs that I was making progress. But those are the “sexy” side effects. I’m here to tell you about the not-so-sexy ones.

I began to pass out. Sometimes at home, sometimes at school, always without knowing it. It was kind of like narcolepsy-it just happened. And on top of the literal black outs, I began to loose whole chunks of time. There are, even still, very large portions of my memory that are not clear because I didn’t feed my brain enough to make them last. On top of that, I have little hairs all around, which were not there before. You wouldn’t know it, because I take care of it, but even now, they remain. And the hair on my head falls out in great clumps, just as it did before. I missed menstrual cycles-sometimes for 6 months or more. Not because I was pregnant, but because my body couldn’t succeed in normal functions. My fingernails would constantly chip and break, but the worst thing was how weak I felt. I felt slow, my head felt too big, it was like being stuck in extreme gravity for months on end.

And the thing is, no one even noticed. I wore baggy clothes, bundled up, and tried to hide from everyone. This photo was taken of my in my junior year, I believe. I was trying to catch up on some caffeine, clearly. (I said I was a caffeine addict. And I remember this. It was during prom planning, when I had to try hardest to fit in.) The shirt I was in was a medium. 

  

I was 5 foot 9 inches (1.75 meters) tall at that point, as I am still,  and “look healthy”. But what you can’t see are the constant struggles with food, the endless exercises,  the constant state of pain. All you can see is laughter. A facade.  The me that I outwardly projected. Which is exactly what my primary care physician saw when I went in with the complaint of forgetting chunks of time and passing out. She told me that it was all menstruation related and that I needed to “focus harder”. She could have inadvertently killed me with those words, but luckily I saw a psychiatrist soon after.

And now?

That’s what everyone wants, right?  The triumphant “I survived. And now I’m better. ” story. But I don’t think that’s the story I have for you.  Not today.

I currently fall into the “obese” category of the BMI chart. And does that bother me? A lot. I stay so far away from the starvation diet that I jumped right into the other band wagon. 

  
Puts an interesting spin on things, doesn’t it? Like a big fat slap in the face. I didn’t even know there was a name for what I was doing to myself. And the thing is: I’m not so different than I was before. I spend a day eating whatever I want followed by a day of not really eating, or by a week of heavy dieting. And the people who know me know that I diet a LOT. We’re talking everything shy of weight loss pills. And the cycle repeats. And I’m almost afraid to call it what it is, because I still can’t decide if it’s a lack of willpower, self control or if it’s just lazy, “emotional” eating. With Bulimia and Anorexia, I could relate to 90% of the psychiatrist’s symptom list, but only about 80% of the list I supplied. (More with AN than B.) But I can check off every single symptom up there for BED) and if that’s not saying something, I’ll tell you what is.

I’ve had some variety of ED for HALF MY LIFE (almost-we’re short by 2 years). My hair, even though it is thick (as we discussed a couple posts ago) falls out in large clumps. My nails break often (but I try to compensate with the vitamins I take). My body still has little hairs from being anorexic, I feel sluggish and exhausted a LOT, and I cannot say that I enjoy these decisions. By being anorexic, I ruined my body. I broke who I was as a person and watched the pieces slip away. But with B.E.D., I’ve hidden any growth behind a wall of food, shame and pain trying to avoid crushing my soul into oblivion (all while sabotaging it instead). 

So all in all, what I have to say can be boiled down into two parts. First, the Pinterest issue. Not all EDs are about being skinny. I didn’t even touch on orthorexia. Not all EDs are publicized, but ALL of them need to be taken seriously.

And second, I make a public promise to myself, that I will never stop fighting for people who need it, even if they do not look like anything is wrong. Because for years the only thing people were concerned about was the physical harm I was inflicting on myself, and noone even saw the neglect and torture behind it.

So although this isn’t an update for you all, I’ve been working on this post for over three weeks, and I want everyone to know that I am getting help I don’t know the future, but I have to take back control.

The Part that Slapped Me In The Face

I made my post earlier, about the things that bother me and I’m going to add a little to it,but also record my experience today. I’m going to approach it all as openly as I can. I’m not trying to prove anything, I just want to write today. I admit, the irony is a little astounding, and I will just say that I am human and sometimes I make mistakes.
The Background:I celebrate Christmas because it’s engrained in my head as something I shall always do. I also celebrate Yule, because I enjoy the solstice. I looked at the clock, after trying in earnest to get some homework done. I  switched gears a little to explore housing for next academic year. And I found some potential places which look wonderful. I shared my finds with my husband, we settled on a couple and  began to dig into them a little deeper.

The Emotion:I seldom feel so defeated as when I look at the cost of things. Like, basic necessity, right to life things. It amazes me how much it costs to live, even when you skrimp and save to afford the basics. Not luxury items, just the bare necessities to get by. So I closed my screen and curled up beside my husband and just cried. I cried for myself, for us both, for people out there who also have to make hard decisions each and every day. I felt overwhelmed, broken down and exhausted. He said “at least we have each other.” I couldn’t even make myself smile about that. How sad on my part. I was so overcome by all the things that were hard.

The Reality:I made up my mind that I hated being poor. I hated that we had to choose our level of comfort based on the electric bill. I hated that we had to show up to our parents’ houses without presents for everyone so that we had enough money to buy groceries. I hated that we were given a  1-foot tall tree (by my wonderful parents) that we couldn’t afford to decorate nor could we afford to turn the attached Christmas lights on, because we need every dollar we have. I hated that we are so close to the holiday season and we can’t give our friends anything more than a smile and a text message. I felt so disheartened. So I got on my phone and looked at the Christmas radio station. Have a Holly Jolly Christmas came on and I was offended. How dare music try to force me into a good mood when I had so many complaints? 

 I still have all of those feelings. It makes me sad, and very much so that I cannot afford many of the luxuries that accompany the holiday season. And in the back of my head, there was a little voice that urged me to please, just believe in all the good things, that there are so many who have even less than you. I’m not sure why people use that line. It’s meant to get you to stop whining, but it honestly just makes me feel like a 1. bigger piece of shit and 2. even more upset for them. I just sat, curled into my blankets crying, wondering why it was so painful, why it was so hard to just live.

The Slap:Why couldn’t I have been born without the need to help people live better lives? Then I could work at a meaningless job and make money and have whatever I wanted. Or if I had to help people, why couldn’t I have been born to a wealthy family who could use their resources to further my ability to help, making it possible to first help myself? But you can’t always get what you want. And I know that. It just hurts my feelings that so many people have loads of things that they aren’t thankful for, and I have so little. And it was that thought, that singular thought that halted me.

Why did I feel entitled to anything more than the body I live in? What really are the basic necessities of life? The universal rights of human beings?

The Resolution:And I decided, over a cup of coffee, that it didn’t matter. I cannot let the world bring me down forever with its injustices and unfairness. If I want the world to be a better place, I am exactly where I need to be. Because if I were rich, how could Ipossibly understand the way that “socioeconomically underprivileged” people felt? How could I possibly relate? So in all honesty, yea, I still hate that life isn’t fair. But maybe that’s why I have to experience it. I can’t know how to help if I don’t even understand why the help matters so damn much.

And for the record, I’m making our ornaments out of a cardboard box, with tin foil and markers. Because:

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” 

― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Thankfulness, Day 21

It’s taken me all day to think up a post for today. I feel like I’ve done a lot of great topics already. Did I cover everything? Certainly not. Am I done being thankful? No. And as seems to be my style, a story would benefit.

I can name a dozen ways to explain why I am the way I am. Sagittarian. First born. Cat person. Daughter of the eclipsing moon. INFP. Born-again pagan. College student. Vegetarian. Wife. 

All of those things affect a certain portion of who I am, but it isn’t an entire picture.

Who I am is a legion of people, all crammed inside one body. I am the one who fulfills duties, fulfills roles set out because of the choices that I have made (daughter, wife, sister). I am the one who devoted my life to learning. I am the one who chooses not to eat meat. I am the one who desires the company of a select few in place of being part of the popular crowd (maybe I am a cat). I am the one who looks within, observes more than judges and is left with more questions than answers. One who is born under an eclipse is more likely to be one who is driven by passion and consumed by it (A binary). I am the one who is many.
  Part of the reason I’m having so much trouble finding things to write about is because it is the end of the semester and I just can’t. I know that there is much stress, but it’s more than that. I’m not saying this because I want a bunch of people to reach out and say “You’ve got this.” I’m writing it because I promised to always tell the truth. And to tell only part of the truth is telling a lie. 

I can never tell the full story of my life, because it is not over. I wake up each day a new person, someone I was not the day before. Because I keep fighting to make myself better. And therefore, I am different each day. Not necessarily better or worse. Just different. But the thing is, it’s exceptionally easy to just get caught in the moment, in the same rut that consumes me each time and have to stop. It’s like making your way through the desert because you need to get out, but coming back to the same oasis because you can’t seem to find your way.

I feel like a burden. Like I ask for help more than I am able to give it. I make up for that in my mannerisms or at least I try to. But at the end of the day, my attempts take quite a bit out of me and I am reduced to being the same girl I was in high school: insecure, broken. Last night, I kept my very accepting husband up for a while because I had conviced myself that I wasn’t pulling my weight in our marriage. I was reduced to tears, wondering why it fell to me to be the one who had so many opportunities and advantages, but to be unable to use them.

I am smart. I am confident. I am succeeding in life (as much as I can, anyway). But not one single ounce of that mattered. My life became defined by a series of counter-facts: I am worthless. I am stupid. I am never going to succeed. And it’s a trend that I always feel coming, like a black cloud hanging low. Sometimes I forget words, or replace them with the wrong ones (yesterday I replaced “crutches” with “stilts” and couldn’t remember the word “sandwich”). Sometimes I just go blank-like a robot without emotions. And sometimes it’s like my entire life has been a lie and if I was happy-it surely must have been all pretend. I couldn’t understand why someone with dreams, goals and aspirations could be broken into someone without hope, happiness or inspiration. In the grand scheme of things, surely it wasn’t fair.

And that is what I focused on today. I’m not thankful for the hard times. To be that way would be ridiculous. No one wakes up and says “Oh thank goodness today is a really shitty day. I’ve had far too many good ones.” Instead, I am thankful for small things. A warm cup of coffee with chocolate chip cookie dough creamer. Rain hitting the window. It’s hard for someone like me, with so many binaries (like being introverted, but wanting to make friends/wanting to feel everything deeply, but not wanting to be consumed by feelings) to not get overwhelmed by days like yesterday. But in the end, I have to remember that there is only one truth that doesn’t ever change.

                                  The sun will rise again.

  That quote may be my tattoo quote, with an entire portion of skin dedicated to the most serene sunrise a tattoo artist can make, but we’ll see. The point is, I’m not thankful for bad days, hard days, or even the days which never end and suck you into a thick black depression. I hate those days. But what I am thankful for is the dawn. I am thankful that all things come to an end. And I am thankful that I am there to see the sun rise once more.