Unsteady

I am doing a two sided post. I’m sharing some facts, I’m sharing a story. And I am doing so, so that perhaps, it will be made clear why I am so vehemently passionate about my life choice of pursuing law school. I’ve been pretty vocal about my stances for a while, but in light of recent events (and verdicts) I want to make my voice heard. Please stick around for the whole story, it is long, but maybe it will shine some lights on something very important.

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No one asks to be sexually assaulted. No one. And from the numbers, it looks like people are just trying to live their lives-not being “promiscuous” or “engaging in binge-drinking”.

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No gender is safe. No orientation is safe. No age is safe. It doesn’t matter how you’re dressed, what you’re doing, where you are. No one asks for it. No one.

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Ages 18-34 are the highest at-risk group. Of any gender.

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And how many of those victims do you think internalized the guilt?

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Moderate to severe distress. And I wonder if that accounts for the people who experience that distress later-perhaps decades later-after the event.

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I wasn’t sure I was ever going to make this information public. It is something I have struggled with mostly in silence, and just as I originally felt about my mental health diagnosis, I thought that it was a source of great shame. But as I listened to Kesha’s statement those couple months ago and as I cried over the statement of the Stanford victim, I knew that there was no shame in my story. And I knew that just as with my stance on mental health, if I do not take the time to let people see, there will never be any change. Let me be perfectly clear: I do not wish to take away from either of those cases or people-or the millions of others which are similar. I just want to present a different side of the struggle, to shine a light on a social issue.

I got a phone call when I was a child (maybe around 11) in the middle of the night. There was a man on the other end, asking me where I lived, what I was doing-very personal information. I was awake in an instant and told him nothing. The next morning I had my mother take me to the police department, told them everything and they called the number back, giving the caller a warning that I was a minor and that they’d come for him if he called again.

I was babysitting at the age of 14 or so and the mother was driving me home. She got a call from her boyfriend and he asked to talk to me. He then asked me if I was dating anyone, if I was having sex, if I’d been “fondled” yet and so on. I said I had a boyfriend, and that was all I said (I was lying). I quit the next day. I never told anyone why-not even my parents.

As a young teen looking into colleges for the first time, I remember being told about how since I’d grown up in a small town, I needed to be more aware that there was a greatly increased risk of sexual assault on college campuses. I brushed the idea off-I was responsible, I was modestly dressed (always), I’d only casually dated people in high school and at the time, was with a guy who respected me. What did I possibly have to worry about? I knew the “risk” factors: late nights, walking alone, dawdling, dressing a certain way. I figured I’d be fine. Of course, I would still be safe, make sure that I always let people know where I was going and the like. I was sure I would be fine and that everyone was over reacting. I wasn’t a child. I could handle college.

Turns out, I wasn’t ready for the big city just yet. I figured I’d go to a smaller campus, I’d get back on my feet and get a job, which I did-somewhere with a uniform. I wore a polo, dress pants and tennis shoes every day. Let me reiterate that. I wore a polo, full length pants and tennis shoes EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Everyone I worked with was a woman. I could not be more safe, right?

My parents, from a young age, told me that I should be nice to the elderly. They were alive much longer than me, they deserved respect. So I did my best to implement this at my job. There was a man, who I will not be naming, who was completely alone, retired and quite old. I was kind each time he came in-because I was being respectful. One day though, I was busy and someone else was helping him. He asked me if he could give me a piece of wrapped candy and I said yes. He told me he didn’t see any pockets on my pants (I was in dress pants, my back facing him) and he reached around, under my apron and placed the candy in my hip pocket, with lingering hands. I backed away, didn’t eat the candy and waited for him to leave.

It was December that year that he was talking to me about my grades in school and asked to see them. I (not being completely naive) cropped the part of the page that had my address, phone number and other pertinent information. He congratulated me but immediately noticed that none of my information was present and commented about it. I told him that that was just the way the picture had been taken, but that those were my grades. He tried to give my $2o, which I refused. He did put $5 in the tip jar though.

The January following, he came into my workplace with a small bag. He asked to see me and I walked out from behind the counter. He told me that he felt that he should get me a present because I’d been so nice to him. He’d positioned himself back far enough that no one from the front end could see us, but no one from the back end could either (a detail I noticed only later). I opened the present right there, to find a datebook/organizer. I thanked him and he reached in his pocket. It was a small patchwork heart, which he held up and pressed to my chest (without asking me first) and said that I would always be in his heart. He asked if he could hug me (I said yes). He proceeded to grope me and kiss my neck-from collarbone to cheek before I struggled away-and ran into the back of the building, through the doors and into the back office.

Immediately I called my boss and told her what had happened. She agreed that whenever he came in, I could go to the back and not have to be around him. It was only in the days following that the real devastation began. As it would turn out, not only had the old man sexually assaulted me, he’d also been stalking me. He knew my schedule, what car I drove and I wouldn’t be surprised if he knew where I lived and all the information I’d tried to hide from everyone except my boss and school. Without fail, he came in and asked for me each day I was there. Each day my coworkers denied me being there, or told him that I was busy and couldn’t be bothered. Some days he would wait to see if that was true. Some days he wouldn’t.

I remember getting laughed at and blamed for the situation that I had “gotten myself into”. I remember taking 3 showers a day for several days in a row because I felt dirty.

The thing is, that before I’d even begun to deal with what had happened, my brain decided I couldn’t take it and hid it away. What I didn’t understand immediately was why I felt so connected to the Ke$ha case, which you can read my thoughts on here. I mean, I didn’t know her, I didn’t have anything in common with her. Why was I so devastated?

I mentioned several times over many blog posts that my brain was breaking apart barriers that I hadn’t realized were there. This is what I meant. The reactions from people since remembering all this have been pretty polarizing. (Up until now I’ve told less than 5 people.) I either got the “how can I help?” question or I got the “it must not have been that traumatizing if you’re only now talking about it” or the “you weren’t raped, you’ll be fine” speech.

Let me break it down for you.

I am the survivor of harassing phone calls which happened as a minor. I do not answer phone calls to this day because of them. It’s been like that for years-you just didn’t see it. That was the first time, at age 11 that I realized I wasn’t safe.

I was NOT raped. I know that. And that makes me “lucky”. But that doesn’t mean that my experiences aren’t worth noting and taking seriously.

I WAS sexually assaulted. I WAS stalked. I WAS vulnerable. And you not being able to understand that only reflects on you. I was 20 at the time I was assaulted. And because the justice system in my state states that I (the victim) must prove that it was unwanted and there wasn’t any physical evidence, I know that I must live with that. (This is how the law was explained to me, anyway.)

Of course there wasn’t any physical evidence. That doesn’t mean that sexual assault shouldn’t be paid attention to though. Here’s the textbook definitions of sexual assault and rape. They’re both criminal offenses. As you can see, rape is the forced penetration. Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact/behavior.

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We all experience trauma in different ways. I wasn’t able to connect mine to past events at first-I just assumed it was part of my bipolar diagnosis. The signs were there from day one-but I didn’t have anyone to properly put them in place. But let me list the symptoms which have been present for years:

-I cannot go into new places alone

-I cannot “do” large crowds

-Sometimes I cannot go into restaurants and order food, especially if I haven’t been there before

-I will not use the restroom if it looks too close to a group of men

-I do not pick up phone calls. Even from people I know. Unless I know you’re calling me. And even then, I get a mini-panic attack when I do. EVEN FROM PEOPLE I KNOW

-I do not do well with the elderly. I panic

-I refuse to be alone with anyone I do not know

-I am polite and courteous, but I will rarely go out of my way to talk to strangers

-I do not share personal information which may allow someone to find me

-I vary my schedules

-My nightmares (if I dream at all) are often reminiscent of SVU episodes

-It takes me hours to get to sleep

-I let someone know where I am at all times-even going to the rest room

-I scout out everywhere I am for lines of sight

-I have been known to barricade myself in

-I do not smile at strangers (followed by periods of uncomfortable laughing and panicked smiles to prevent strangers from murdering me or worse)

Those of you with a mental health diagnosis may understand why I assumed this was all part of my disorder-at a depressive point, it’s classic isolation, at a manic point it’s classic avoidance and paranoia. But the thing is, it was so much more than that. A quick Google search will show you that these behaviors also sound a little too much like a different diagnosis: PTSD. I’ll go ahead and include a screenshot for you.

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So no. I wasn’t raped. I don’t know what that does to your mind. But I am 1 in 6-I am a survivor of sexual assault and I am devoting my life to protecting other victims. No one should have to feel like they aren’t safe. No one should have to defend the right to their own body. No one should have to defend their right to say no.

 

Bullseye

I woke up this morning and could just smell the injustices of the world. You know, it just hung like smog around the earth. And I knew I had to do something about it. What did I want to do? Blog? Eventually. Protest? Protest what? Spend my money where my alliances lign up? Yes indeedy. I decided I was gonna don the robe of justice and bring my voice to the masses.

I went to Target today. I’ve been there, but never bought anything from the store before. I “dressed up for justice”.. I did my hair, my makeup, put on my nicest clothes, grabbed my “power” heels, my husband and my wallet and drove to the store. Did I need anything from Target? Not necessarily. But what I needed was to make sure that I supported a business who supports equality.

Now I must add some comments about my attire, because the choices were very deliberate. I decided I was gonna rock the body I so seldom ply truly love. I was proud of the way I looked. What you may not be able to see are the three rings I am wearing. One is my engagement ring/wedding band combo. That one is very obvious as to why I should wear it (and he’s the one who took the first photo). One is a moonstone, which represents femininity and one is just a piece of costume jewelry that I love and use only on special occasions-with this being a holiday and all, I thought it was a good enough reason. On one of my wrists I am wearing a blue and pink bracelet and the other I am wearing a rainbow one. Obviously the rainbow one is for gay support, but the other one is for bisexuality support. I have many friends who are L/G and I belong to the “bi” category. I chose a black and white striped dress because a white and black flag is the one used by straight allies. As I have said, I do not fit in the “straight” category, but I am an ally and I’m not transgender or transsexual, so I thought it was fitting. And grey leggings because grey is the color for asexuallity, which brings us almost completely to all the letters of LGBTQIA. And the heels? Those are my “I’m gonna sue you” heels. My eyes have teal eyeliner, because that is the color for sexual assault awareness. All in all, this is my first day of dressing up for what I believe in, and it marks the start of my career in human rights.

I needed to know what it felt like to look business professional for something I truly believe in, because that is going to be the rest of my life. I’m adding pictures as proof that I actually went there-and bought stuff, because words are just words, you know?

 
The model looks like she’s resting on my head. And I’m pretty impressed with the amount of frizz that is absent from my hair!


There’s the frizz! In the mirror! But ultimately, I took this picture in the bathroom aisle because that’s what this is all about (and I really didn’t have to pee). I’m really pretty pleased with my selfie game here. Classy.

You know, I posted a status on my Facebook page about how I was going to go to Target today and if that offended anybody, they should unfriend me. I’m a big girl, it won’t hurt my feelings to lose “friends” whom I do not agree with on issues of human rights. It honestly should not come as a surprise that I support bathroom equality. Because it’s all about human equality. I do not identify as transgender nor do Iidentify as a transsexual. But I identify as a human being. And the thing is, statistically speaking, trans people are the ones getting attacked and sexually assaulted, not doing the attacking. And you know what else? If parents were worried about their kids being in situations which might be dangerous, why aren’t the parents going to the facilities with their children? My parents did up until I was old enough to know that I could use the restroom without help, and with the understanding that if something happened, I’d scream like murder (I’d say I was about 8, maybe 10).

The thing is, people are afraid of what they don’t understand. And that’s not how we should live. This blog is my stance. So to all you Chrsitians and Catholics who say that you love like Jesus did and then immediately cry for the persecution of transgender and transsexual individuals, you are the problem. Jesus didn’t only love the people just like him. He just loved. The end. No qualifiers, no categories. And you’re doing Christianity wrong if you love any other way but unconditionally. And you know what, that goes for all religions, including having no religion at all. If you’re for equality, for safety, for love, for humanity, for the future, for living to the fullest and you are anti this topic, you’re not living your life to the fullest capacity. You are, in fact, holding everyone else back. I know, I’m a radical millennial (I was born in 1992. I call myself everything but a millennial, but whatever.) and I haven’t “experienced” life yet. But you know what, I don’t need 40 or 50 or 70 years of life to know that there are good people and bad people in the world and that chances are, you’re only assuming that someone belongs in a certain category because you don’t understand it. Do I know what it’s like to be a trans individual? Nope. But I have friends who do. And I treat them like human beings. Period. Because that’s what they are.

I can only hope that if one of my future children identifies as a member of the trans community, that they know how much I love them as a person, not as a prescribed way of being. And I wish this “issue” were more personal for people. Because until you have seen and heard and been a part of the life of someone who is trans, you really don’t understand what the “big deal” is. And that is half the problem.


Forgive the mess! This is my favorite selfie of the day.

So thank you Target, for allowing me to enter your store, for placing store representatives who smiled at me and asked me if I found everything okay. Thank you for supplying products to a less than straight pagan woman in Ohio and her husband. Thanks for letting me wander around and take some selfies. Thanks for having the products that I was wanting to pick up and for putting those discount stickers on stuff.

But more than that, thank you. Thank you, Target. Thank you for serving the people of our fair country to the best of your inclusive ability. Thank you for ensuring that customers and patrons feel that they are protected and appreciated enough that they can be themselves. Thank you for remembering that we are all human in the end and that there is inherent good in the people of our human race. Thank you for embracing the things that make us all unique-even when there are so many who do not understand. Thank you for opening your hearts when others would have you open the door to bigotry and fear. Thank you for ensuring that the bullseye symbol which you have chosen as your brand does not stand for the way in which you “target” people different from you, but for the way it encircles all walks of life in one unified stance. And lastly, thank you for not giving in. I can only imagine what trans people feel when they see the hatred and fear coming from their fellow humans and I am so glad that you have provided a light in the darkness.

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.

U

  • 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

V

  • 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.

 

My PSA

April 1 marks the very first day of April (obviously) but it is the beginning of an entire month of awareness. April’s awareness topics range from Autism to Organ Donation, from several types of cancer to Stress. But there is one thing that it is, which needs to be mentioned loudly. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. And it is that topic which is the focus of today’s message.

On a personal note, there are very few topics which get me so fired up that my big heart shows right through. This is one of them. I am VERY passionate about improving the conditions of women with regards to sexual education and safety. What started out as a tangent-concern (I’m a woman and of course, I’m concerned about those topics) quickly became an all consuming passionate need to improve the world around me. This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. I’m writing a book about it, I’m going to school for it. I have lots of ideas, and I would love to share them all. If you want to know more about this topic, or any others that I blog about, please, just ask. Educating others is the biggest blessing I could ever have.

Trigger ALERT: This post contains information on sexual assault/rape. If you find those topics to be triggers, please, know that you are not alone and that life is still beautiful-even if your skies are grey.

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Before we get into the “heart” of today, we need to know what it is that this month actually means.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), sexual assault is a crime of power and control. The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include: Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape, attempted rape, forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body, fondling or unwanted sexual touching

This list is only a partial list, however. According to Marshall University the list also includes:

Sexual assault includes:

  • Rape—sexual intercourse against a person’s will
  • Forcible sodomy—anal or oral sex against a person’s will
  • Forcible object penetration—penetrating someone’s vagina or anus, or causing that person to penetrate her or himself, against that person’s will
  • Marital rape
  • Unwanted sexual touching
  • Sexual contact with minors, whether consensual or not
  • Incest (Sexual intercourse or sexual intrusion between family members.)
  • Any unwanted or coerced sexual contact

Let me break it down for you: if it is physical contact that is in any way sexual (kissing, touching, feeling, etc) and you didn’t want it-it is sexual assaultALL rape is sexual assault, but not all sexual assault is rape.

I always assumed that the word assault meant “violent”. That sexual assault basically equaled rape, or some sado-masochist stuff that you see in Law and Order: SVU. Turns out, I was wrong. It doesn’t have to be violent at all. I didn’t know the actual definition of sexual assault until I was 23 years old. And that’s exactly what’s wrong with America today. Someone grab your butt? It counts. Someone kiss you without your consent? It counts. And that’s the start of why so many people don’t report it (of course, there are other reasons).

If you don’t even know it’s sexual assault, then why would you report anything?

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According to the Center for Disease Control, “1 in 5 women have experienced completed or attempted rape, and about 1 in 15 men have been made to penetrate someone in their lifetime. Most victims first experienced sexual violence before age 25.” (CDC) But the statistics do not stop there.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network)

·         Every 107 seconds, a sexual assault happens.

·         68% of these will not be reported to authorities

·         About 293,066 people are assaulted or raped EACH YEAR

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Some effects shown by the victims are: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Self-Harm, Sexually Transmitted Infections/Diseases (STI/STD), Depression, Substance Abuse, Sleep Disorders and more.

1 in 4

Here’s what RAINN recommends you do if sexual assault happens to you.

1.       Your safety is important. Are you in a safe place? If you’re not feeling safe, consider reaching out to someone you trust for support. You don’t have to go through this alone.

2.      What happened was not your fault. Something happened to you that you didn’t want to happen—and that’s not OK.

3.      Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673).You’ll be connected to a trained staff member from a local sexual assault service provider in your area. They will direct you to the appropriate local health facility that can care for survivors of sexual assault. Some service providers may be able to send a trained advocate to accompany you.

I’m going to just attach the link to RAINN about reporting assault, which includes some reasons people may not.

https://rainn.org/get-information/legal-information/reporting-rape

So there are the facts, and the data and the definitions. Now, we need to look at the real life faces of an issue that has made its way into our society. It’s time to make prevention personal.

Baylor Story                 Self-Blame                    Devalued, Discounted and Unprotected

Huffington Post, Kesha

These links are from people (or are about people) with real lives, real concerns. And in the effort to be fair, here are some links with resources and “help” information.

Good Therapy        Victims of Crime       S.T.A.R.S.

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If you took the time to look at the links above, you’ll notice one strikingly concerning thing. The phrase in question is:

It’s not like I was raped…

Let me say this in the plainest English I can:

It. Does. Not. Matter. 

You. Are. A. Human. Being. Worthy. Of. Respect. And. Love.

Seriously. “Just because it wasn’t rape” doesn’t make it less awful, nor does it negate the effects. Rape is awful. That is true. But NO ONE asks to be assaulted. NO ONE. And it doesn’t matter if you were at a bar and someone comes up to you and gropes you, or someone comes up to you and starts kissing you and “feeling you up”. It doesn’t matter if you knew the person or if they were a stranger.

If you didn’t want it: it’s sexual assault. And that is a crime.

If you are a victim, you are not alone.

A Letter

Dear Senator Sanders,

         You do not know me, but I am a young Democratic voter from a very small town in Ohio. You’ve probably never heard of it, but it was named after a Polish officer who fought in our revolution. In that tiny little spot, there are no stop lights, and plenty of dirt roads. It is a place where children can play freely, cut off from the rest of the word, or so it can seem. I grew up there, and it will always be home to me, full of the love and support that I am thankful to have had.

         I’ve been privileged to have had some wonderful friends, all of whom helped me grow into the outspoken, passionate woman I am today. And part of that stems from having a deep love of people who are different from myself. I deeply enjoy looking into other cultures, ensuring that I have the best, most thorough information available, so that I can make that small town proud of the ways in which I impact my world. As an anthropology student, research into cultures and attitudes are kind of a requirement. So I took the time to do a little research on you, Mr. Sanders, and here is what I found out.

         You are a man of many skills: carpentry, film and legislation among them. You are devoted to your family, and all that you see morally astute. But do you know what I did not see, or at least, not on your website? I did not see a medical degree. And so it troubles me deeply that you went out of your way to say the following at the debate in Flint, Michigan:

“We are, if elected president, going to invest a lot of money into mental health. And when you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to address the mental health.”

         You see, the media may have found that sound bite worthy of a chuckle, Secretary Clinton did as well, but for someone who works so hard at promoting equality amongst peoples, you have let down a very large, very important community. You may have made an offhanded comment about the opposing party, but you neglected to consider that the members of the mentally ill community may not have appreciated you including the Republican candidates into that group simply because some of the outrageous things which have come out of their mouths.

         I have been a proud advocate of mental health awareness, of mental illness equality and of breaking down stigmas associated with mental illnesses. But more than that, I am a member of that community that you so brazenly mocked. Some of the phrases you used last night were “lunatic”, “crazy person” and of course, the quote which I have mentioned above. You see, while it may be easy to openly criticize actions such as those of Mr. Trump mocking a physically disabled person, it is not as socially acceptable to openly discuss ways in which mental illnesses need to be treated with the same respect. 

         So here I am, Senator Sanders, a young woman from Ohio, asking you to consider the fact that while the words you speak may be coming from a well-intended place, you are furthering the stigmas and stereotypes which have plagued a branch of health and wellness for far too long. Instead of using the actions of the opposing party to get a few laughs, why don’t you focus on ways in which you will help the mental health community facilitate our own well-being in the face of misunderstanding and under-education. Perhaps then, you would be able to see why making jokes about mental health isn’t funny-it’s just plain rude.

         Thank you for your time.

Best,

Michelle Brewer-Bunnell

A Concerned Citizen

Why the Kesha Ruling Matters

This week has been one hellacious week, as far as my reaction to court cases and life in general. You could say my faith in humanity wavered for a moment in time. But I write to you today from the perspective from someone who found the passion to pull herself from the depths of a hell-like depression into a full blown fighter. I have always been a fighter and now I’ve found my purpose.

Pocahontus Compass

I can no longer sit idly by and let our society, which I have endeavored to learn about and discover seek to oppress me by legislation which forces me to conceal that which is most basic to my existence: my biological sex.

I was born a female, and that is what I will stay, as feels right for me. But for whatever reason, that has been enough to condemn me. Michelle, are you talking about yourself personally or as a generality? Well, reader, I have to say both. And I can think of no more a potent case than the one recently involving Kesha. Kesha is a pop singer signed to the Sony label. She is known for song like “Tik-Tok” and “Crazy Kids”. And earlier this past week, a judge (more specifically Justice Shirley Kornreich of the Manhattan-New York Supreme Court) ruled that Kesha would continue to be legally obligated to fulfill her contract with the man whom Kesha has accused of sexually assaulting and raping her.

Michelle, you don’t even KNOW Kesha, nor anyone even remotely close to that case. How could it POSSIBLY affect you? Well, reader, pull up a chair and let me tell you a story.

—-Before I begin, I actually started this post 4 days ago, and had to stop because it emotionally drained me to the point of insanity. I would now like to finish what I started.

Womens-rights-are-human-rights

If the law says that a woman must stand by her accused rapist (or alleged assaulter, or abuser) for the sake of upholding a piece of paper, on which words are printed and names were signed, you are doing two things. First, you are saying that a contract is more important than a woman’s safety. Second, you are saying that women are not to be respected or believed if they come forward with accusations of assault, abuse or rape. You are saying that a women is expected to be grateful for the opportunities she has and that any reason she may have to want to remove herself from that opportunity is not good enough, and that maybe she shouldn’t have brought it on herself.

I was in class yesterday, and as I usually get there a couple minutes early, I found myself in a super emotional conversation about this very topic. I promise I didn’t start it, but I can proudly say I did pitch in. But because it pertains, I will record the pertinent parts.

Person A: My theater class was talking about the Steubenville rape today and Kesha got brought up. There are 4 women including myself in that class and I’ve never been so emotional in a class before.

Person B: What happened?

Person A: The men in the class all grouped up to say that Kesha should have had the wherewithal to know that she was being given date rape drugs instead of sleeping pills and that she deserved to face the consequences. Then one of the 4 women took their side and said that Kesha getting raped was like a person standing in front of a mass shooter and asking to be shot.

Now, I’m gonna stop my relay of the conversation there, because Person A and the rest of the class were getting into the problems of rape culture (some of which I will bring up in a moment) and because I made my point. Person A was physically shaking, and by the end of the conversation, more than just them was of that same response.

So when I say “rape culture” what is it that I mean? According to the Women Against Violence Against Women, here’s the backstory:

“Rape culture is a term that was coined by feminists in the United States in the 1970’s. It was designed to show the ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized male sexual violence.”

rapeculturegraphic

Uh-oh! Did I just say feminists? YES I DID. And the Google definition of feminism is:

Feminism: noun: the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

Feminists are simply people who think that all people should be equal, and have equal rights. That’s it. Not men-hating crazy people. Just equality. It says nothing about what job is “appropriate” or what fashion a person wears or beliefs or anything. Just equality. Seriously. SO MANY people use it the wrong way and have no idea what it is. Educate yourselves!

gender_balance

Anyway, back to my point.

If we as a society are telling one young woman that she cannot escape her alleged attacker, then we are telling ALL women that they are stuck in the cycles of inferiority because of the sex they were born as. We are saying that women do not have the right to feel safe, or to expect to be protected by the laws which seek to govern them. We are telling women that their voice is to be muted, so that no one is to ever pay attention to it because all women are doing is seeking attention without having anything worthwhile to say.

And yes, it IS possible for women to be awful people and just make stuff up for attention. But one bad person is NOT justification enough to punish all women and oppress their needs just as it is not justification enough to punish all of MANkind for the actions of Hitler or John Wilkes Booth.

I try to keep my blogs from being overrun by politics. My husband is the political one and in fact, I think he may eventually come around to the idea of going into politics as a career. I’ve always seen myself as the justice keeper type. But I want to also welcome discussion. I don’t want to exclude views just because they are not my own. I want to know why people think what they think.

This topic is so personal for me. Not because of who is involved, or what happened, but because I am a woman. My husband and I have decided that kids would be great-one day in the distant future. The thought of having a kid now TERRIFIES me. I’m not ready, I’m not financially stable enough, I still go to college and that’s reason enough for me.

Why am I bringing up kids in my blog about the Kesha case? Because I need you all to see the pressures on women. And part of being a woman is being pressured about your biological clock.

I had a professor who told me that my experiences were not correct because they seemed to him to be wrong. He had asked about the pressures of having children on married women. I offered my story because I thought it would help the class understand. Here’s the transcript.

Him: I don’t know. Do any of you married women feel that there is pressure on you to have children?

Me: I had people asking me if I was ready to have a kid five minutes after I got married. And some of the congratulatory Facebook posts also contained questions about it.

Him: I don’t think that happens.

Another woman came to my defense, saying that it does happen and that people also force their ideas of how many children you are supposed to have on you. But the point is, I was told that my experiences were invalid because he didn’t believe them. How am I supposed to combat that?

The CDC recently released a report about women drinking and pregnancy. If you took health class seriously, you know that alcohol and babies do not mix. It’s bad for the babies. But I personally think the CDC is taking it a little too far. Yes, I think that baby health should be at utmost priority. But I also think that if women who are of “sexually reproductive” age and not on birth control have to have their alcohol consumption monitored, then maybe so should men. After all, men are more likely to become alcoholics and if we’re really so concerned about baby health, then why would we want to be unconcerned about alcoholic dads?

The state of Ohio (in which I live) has recently passed a bill stating that abortions will not be funded unless it is necessary for health or in instances of reported rape or incest. Michelle, you just said you weren’t going to get political-what’s this? This is me showing you why Kesha matters.

So let me list this out for you.

ALL THE THINGS WRONG ABOUT THE KESHA RULING AND RAPE CULTURE IN AMERICAN SOCIETY

(The consequences spelled out for you by: a woman.)*

-Women are not to be believed in the event that they accuse someone of rape or assault because they are probably just seeking a better opportunity.

-Women are not to be believed about their experiences because they are probably lying.

-Women are not to consume alcohol because they are going to damage their unplanned children. (There is, to-date, no regulation on men though.)

-Women are not allowed to get an abortion (in several states now, not just my own) unless they have poor health, have been the victim of incest or have been the victim of a rape that they probably just want because they had the opportunity to have “consensual” sex and not worry about the consequences (and they probably lied about being raped anyway).

_________________________________________________________________

And now, you maybe see why the Kesha case is so important. It isn’t about Dr. Luke, Kesha or even Sony. It isn’t about Hollywood’s biases, intolerance, injustice (well, it kinda is) or anything like that. It is about the implications of a ruling based on sexism and oppression in a land where being a woman is already treated like a bad thing. I’ll be graduating Spring 2017 with a degree in Anthropology and then in 2020 with a degree in law. And I’m aiming for the laws which limit women’s rights. That will be my legacy.

female-power-anyn-rand.jpg*This explanation does NOT reflect my personal beliefs. I believe that the scenario I have explained is how the facts are being interpreted. I believe that ALL accusations of rape and assault should be looked into with respect and integrity, and am looking into a career in rape prosecution. The explanation I give is NOT how I believe the world should work and is in fact, just the opposite of how I want society to  be.

The Girl on Fire

                                                         

I’ve blogged about being a 20-something probably more times than you all care to read. I’ve done nostalgia posts, issues facing 20-somethings, thoughts from, thoughts for, poetry, you name it. I’ve done as many perspectives and ideas as I can probably muster on a good day and I think probably some more on top of that. but today, today is a day of awakening. Today is the day of heart unrest that had me up all night, fuming, crying, filled with super-heroine leveled frustration. Seriously, had I had just an ounce more caffeine I may have turned into the curvy, sassy half-sister of Elektra. But all comics aside, I have both a blog about me and a blog about life for today. I need to do a brain purge and today just seems to be the day to do it, so here goes. It’s probably going to be verbose, it may be a little biased and it most definitely will be emotionally charged and opinionated. That is my waiver statement and you all have been alerted as such.

I’m a teller of stories. Each time I go to write something, say something, think about something, it is always a story. I try to look at all the sides of an issue, even if I’m vehemently against it, for the sake of the story. I want to know the truth. That’s what’s supposed to set us free, right?

           

This past week I’ve looked at more SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) cases and political blogs, news stories and social media commentaries about social issues than I probably ever have. It started out as a paper assignment for one of my classes and turned into a passion fueled quest. But as it would turn out, the thing I love is also the thing I hate. You see, the more stories I read, or cases I analyzed (depending on the moment), the more I found that moment where I knew this was something I was passionate enough about to make into a career. But then after a couple hours of stewing, it was those same things that made me sickeningly depressed. I’ve never experienced something like that. And so, I found myself in the loop of highs and lows that although is not unfamiliar to me, was altogether too much.

It went on like this for about a week, as I said, spending my days in class and reading the things then coming home, doing more homework and letting the issues sit on the back burner. Then I would spend the nights crying, because my heart was so heavy with the injustices that I saw that day. My husband, who is well-accustomed to my emotional outbursts was the greatest of help (no sarcasm!) and I woke each day with a renewed vengeance to attack these case reviews and articles and such with fervor. The cycle just repeated itself. By Sunday (yesterday), I found myself in such a great need for a restoration of my faith in humanity that I decided to watch A Walk to Remember. Little did I know that a.0 my faith would not be restored by that movie alone and b.) I was going to spend the night awake and crying and telling my husband about how much the world hurts my heart. I think I’ve gotten such crappy sleep this past week that I’m running on fumes and that’s literally forcing me to remain in this depression cycle.

So. I want to discuss some of the things here that I did with my husband yesterday/last night.

1. I want to be a diplomat, but I sometimes feel like it’s a lost cause. How can I seek to help people if I cannot even help myself? A: By knowing myself, I will be able to help myself and therefore help the other people.

2. How can I be a diplomat from the “greatest country ever” if we’re so oppressive here? And although we are not the MOST oppressive, how can we be the best if we aren’t the best, you know? A: By making “here” live up to its potential.

3. Why have we come so far only to move backwards? We are oppressing college students with debt, women, different ethnicities, different beliefs, different lifestyles. Don’t believe me? Look at the Ke$ha case, the case in Georgia about LGBT discrimination, the social media stories about Muslim discrimination, the way police officers are treated nationally, look at my post about college debt. And don’t get me started on the Flint, Michigan issue. A: Because people don’t understand the full effect of their decisions. That’s what I can help.

4. If I’ve been doing this research for a week, and am depressed about it, how can I expect to do it for the next 40 or 50 years? A: See below.

                                                        

And really, I’m going to stop it there because the questions just unravel in a fit of hysteria. And no, dear readers, I don’t think you need to answer these questions, but I’d be more than willing to hear your thoughts. I supplied some answers, but they’re obviously shallow ones. As I’m sure you can guess, I’m spending so much time thinking about these questions that homework is starting to bleed through and I’ve become incredibly opinionated about all that is going on. I’m taking some politically based classes this semester (thus the assignment and the bleed through) but you know, I never expected that I would become emotionally invested.

And I guess that’s where I will leave for today. I’ve always viewed my emotions and attachment to ideas as a negative aspect of myself. Like that was my big flaw, the thing that could be the very ruination of all I’ve worked so hard for. I have done my best to hide my emotions, treating them as a part of myself that had to be tamed, that I should be embarrassed about. And yet, it is that very thing about me that is pulling me in two very different directions. I am both very concerned for my emotional health doing this job, living this life. But. I am also incredibly excited, incredibly passionate about this subject and I think that’s the one thing that will force me out of bed each morning, striving to make the world I live in a place I can be proud of, where justice prevails and human rights are universal.