IMADTTO: The Conclusion

Hi folks.

Last night I received word on the President’s Prize, the project I’ve poured my heart and soul into for these past few months. I set out to combat rape culture on college campuses and in the end, it was decided that my project (for whatever reason) was not up to the level that my university wanted and therefore was rejected. I spent last night at somewhat of a loss. I believed in my project, it was the very first thing I put my whole self into and I received a very short “There were so many wonderful applicants, but unfortunately you will not be continuing on.” email and I debated what to do as my next step.

I decided that I wanted to share what I’d done with you all, so that you might know what I’d spent so much time working on, but also to use as a way to put some accountability on my university. I hope they do incorporate some of my ideas-because my pride is far less important than the safety of women everywhere. But if these ideas come into use, I hope they put them to action with as much devotion as I would have-because for them it’s just policy, for me it’s an entire life’s worth of passion. I’m only going to put the second round project proposal, because it is the most complete-but there were many other drafts, and additional pieces of work that needed to be included in the process of review.

I invite critiques and thoughts-because, as I said, this is something I’m devoting my whole life to-and am applying to law school for- so making this project better and better can only help me enact it in the courtroom.

I have to deal with losses as a lawyer, with grace and humility. I don’t want to lose, nor do I like it, but I am human and it very well may happen. I’m doing the best I can to plug forward, shake it off and carry on. My pride is wounded, but my compassion and drive are not. (Oh, and I changed the logo colors to Sexual Assault Awareness and Domestic Violence Awareness colors-a change I am very happy with.)

tl;dr: I’m placing my project proposal on my blog so that I can use it as a platform to save the world in a different route: my own self.

Michelle Brewer-Bunnell President’s Prize Project Statement

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Project Title: IMADTTO (I Made A Difference To That One)

Problem Statement:

          Rape culture on college campuses is a social pandemic which needs to be addressed and eradicated. There are three target areas that I seek to focus on as key elements in the fight against rape culture: prevention, prosecution of crime and response to survivors. These elements are broken into sections of action that IMADTTO addresses as research, outreach, education and advocacy.

I maintain a blog on WordPress which, to the best of my abilities, I use to further stories of perceived injustices-focusing on rape culture. I use the critical thinking skills I have cultivated to seek out the legislation, proposed bills and the stories themselves so that I may present the facts. I also use that blog to discuss ideas for the improvement of society in respect to rape culture. I have opened the conversation to my readers and subscribers to tell me their ideas and stories. Since I have done so, it has been made abundantly clear to me that survivors of sexual assault desire to have their stories heard by someone who shows them respect and believes them at face value.

I have been approached by friends I have known for years, by family members and by complete strangers alike and asked if I could just listen to them. Among their stories, a vein of similarity popped up repeatedly: the need for gender inclusive education (whereby the message of body safety and awareness was given to all young adults), the need for a safe space to talk about their experiences and the need to be believed. It is these three suggestions from which IMADTTO came into existence, and will excel. The stark need for a program like IMADTTO is highlighted by the cases of Brock Allen Turner (Stanford University) and the Steubenville rape in 2012.

This project will positively affect everyone. The students are the target audience-both at a collegiate and high school level. By increasing body positivity and safety, young adults will be prepared to enter a world where they understand their rights, are fully capable of protecting themselves and are aware of what resources are available to them should they encounter an unsafe situation. On a slightly larger scale, this project will be beneficial to the parents of college-aged children by giving them the peace of mind that their children will be attending a college which is prepared to protect its students.

Ohio State will benefit from admissions increases, emerging as a leader in student safety and body positivity. Ohio State will serve as the role model for how rape culture on college campuses can be combatted. This commitment ripples through the national and global level, because Ohio State is rich in diversity and what student learn while attending will provide them the opportunity to be ambassadors to their home states and countries.

Project Outline and Timeline:

IMADTTO operates at four specific sections: research, outreach, education and advocacy. For each of these sections, individual tasks have been allocated. The research section will initiate the project. A survey will be created to assess potential problem areas on campus, the individual’s knowledge of available resources for the issue of sexual assault, responses to stigma and pop culture rape culture, as well as gauge their interest in a support group for survivors of sexual assault. This survey will serve as the basis for my own research (in accordance with IRB). This section will also include creating a compendium of resources available across the state to be used as part of the education and outreach sections. The research conducted in this section will be used to present at the latter two conferences I will attend.
Education will focus on the themes of body safety and body positivity. Under this category, a website and mobile application will be created in order to disseminate the information gathered in the “Research”. This will include a map of the areas deemed “issue” (that is to say, where students felt needed extra precaution when using) areas, the compendium of resources, links to news articles and legislation about sexual assault and rape culture, as well as important information such as basic self-defense tips. This information will be dispersed at twenty-five (25) high schools, as well as talks at each of the five (5) branch campuses, plus main campus. How to duplicate this project at other universities will be made available on the website as well.
The capstone for this section is the introduction of a sexual assault learning module in the Freshman Survey course, and a discussion for the parents at Freshman Orientation. The learning module will be a condensed, statistical exploration of rape culture and sexual assault that will be inserted into the pre-existing Freshman Survey course. The Freshman Orientation discussion with parents will be an introduction to the ways in which Ohio State is looking out for its students, including how a perpetrator will be dealt with. This creates accountability between Ohio State and the parents to ensure that all students are protected and informed.
Outreach focuses on publications. A newsletter featuring words of hope, self-care, the stories of survivors, and thoughts from professionals (such as nurses, social workers and police officers) will be created and distributed in both print and virtual format. This newsletter will also include progress reports for IMADTTO, as a way of holding the project accountable and also informing the general public about the successes of the project. Three books will be created, as conversation starters: one children’s picture book, one middle grade book and one young adult book. These books will focus on the theme of body positivity and inclusiveness at age appropriate levels.
Advocacy will take on a sustainable entity of its own. Small groups (of about 4-6 people) of survivors will come together to create support systems and lasting friendships during their time at Ohio State. These groups will serve as a type of “first line of defense” for survivors including-but-not-limited-to encouragement, providing escorts for the other members of their group to and from activities, get well cards, providing meals or support on “trigger” days (days in which the individual may suffer from the memory of a traumatic event). These groups will be for morale boosting purposes, but also provide a basic level of support by other people who understand the necessity of the group. There will also be collaboration with local law enforcement and politicians to promote an Ohio Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights, modeled after the National Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights, which was passed just this year.
Apart from the support group, this project will be, essentially, a networking and structural one. In order for IMADTTO to become functional, I must prepare the foundations of each section (the survey, the website, the newsletter, educational materials) and use those to further the project. As the foundations are completed, the project will require assistance and guidance from both curriculum advisors and orientation organizers (for the survey course and orientation discussion) as well as the cooperation and coordination efforts between myself and the leadership of the schools which I will be presenting at. Once this is accomplished, the project becomes more self-sufficient. The course work and discussion materials will be available, as will the publications, finalizing the third tier. The research presentations head off the final leg of the project, support groups will form and be self-managing.
Achievements to date include the information gathered from my blog, in which the basis of this project has come into formation. The compendium of resources has been started, but is at a national level, compiled into an alphabetized list. This is a fantastic starting point, and will be made available on the website. I would like to make an Ohio-specific list for IMADTTO. I am also currently working to complete general IRB (Institutional Review Board) modules so that I can begin the project immediately.
There are several project goals over the course of the year. Within the first three months (July through September) the survey will be created and dispersed, data compiled, presentation materials created, website and newsletter created, and branch campus visits scheduled. In months four to six (October through December) will focus on the publications as well as drafting the Freshman Survey module and the Freshman Orientation discussion. The support groups will also be organized and commence in this time frame. The third quarter (January through March) goals are completing and publishing the children and middle grade books, speaking at the high schools and working with law enforcement and legislators to draft and propose the survivor bill. The final three months (April through June) will be centered on enacting the learning module, the orientation discussion and ensuring that IMADTTO has impacted the university in a positive way. Instructions will be created for those wishing to continue the support groups, newsletter and website (or final arrangements made). A research paper will be produced (and presented), and the young adult chapter book will be made available for purchase.
There is nothing about this project which will take more than 12 months to achieve, however, there are some items which will require ongoing effort. The Freshman Survey learning module, the Freshman Orientation parental discussion and the support groups will be the lasting sectors of IMADTTO, in the event that no one continues the newsletter and regular website upkeep. For the learning module, this will be in the hands of the faculty and staff who teach the survey course, as well as the curriculum advisors. The parent discussion will be in the control of the directors of orientation. The support groups will either end at the discretion of the individual groups, or will be in the control of Sexuality and Civility Empowerment.
I will measure the success of IMADTTO based on both quantifiable markers and abstract ones. The successful creation of educational materials, the website and the completion of the goals listed above will serve as indicators for the overall success. I will also view success based on the level of reach which the project will have. The introduction of the survivor bill and the implementation of discussions about changing rape culture and making sexual assault survivors less stigmatized, while a little more abstract, are no less important.

Budget Description:

In total, this project will require $48,469. This money will be utilized for marketing, data collection, producing educational materials and dispersing information. No external funding is required. Marketing will involve “swag”, or promotional materials to be distributed to the schools I visit, as well as at various times throughout the academic year. These items will include the link to the website, resource compendium and other valuable information. Data collection will include the cost of running the survey through Survey Monkey. This will also include the price of maintaining the website and domain name (if not included in the university’s page) and mobile application costs. Producing the educational materials includes printing handouts, producing the newsletter in print form and also startup costs for the books. Funds to sustain the project, as well as scholarships for the creation of artwork for the children’s book and mobile application design. A budget for travel is included not only to ensure transportation to the schools I intend to visit, but also to three conferences given by professionals for the sole purpose of combatting rape culture in their various professions. It is at these conferences that this project’s findings will be presented.
These financial resources directly affect achieving the project goals by ensuring the conception and implementation of the project itself. Without the research aspect, this project cannot fully address the concerns of the Ohio State population. Without the education aspect, IMADTTO cannot affect prevention of sexual assaults (or knowledge of availability of resources). Without the outreach aspect, no one will know what IMADTTO’s purpose is, what is being done and how to start the discussion about sexual assault. Without the advocacy aspect, no actual change will occur. Students will have to navigate the justice system alone, Ohio might not have a survivor bill of rights, law enforcement will not know which areas students feel unsafe in. By attending the conferences I have selected, I will be able to bring the knowledge of other professionals from a variety of backgrounds to Ohio State to continually make the information I have gathered both useful, timely and culturally relevant.

Additional Information:

Although I am not the only one to think of addressing the issue of sexual assault and rape culture, I do not believe there is a program which mirrors IMADTTO in its breadth and the way it is broken down. Of the programs which exist in the state of Ohio, the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio and Sexuality and Civility Empowerment will be the resources I utilize most as I take on this project. Along with this, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network will be paramount to the successful accumulation of knowledge.
The marketing sector of this project will be taken care of both in person and through social media. I have a decent following on various social media platforms, and by utilizing the power and prestige of the university, I can access a vast database of networking moments through other students and faculty and staff. The in person marketing will come from meeting with students at their schools and at Ohio State’s Welcome Week.
In order for this project to be successful, each and every one of my interactions will be a form of partnership. Because I will have access to an entire university of staff and faculty who have insights into things I may not, such as research they’ve done over a specific facet of my project, the scope of my ideals will be far less limited. My faculty mentor will be the discerning rod for any questions I may have. From procedural decisions to research methods and write-up questions, I will use my mentor not as a crutch to lean on, but as a net to capture the things I might miss because of inexperience.
Apart from financial and networking assistance, all I require is a place to set up my work and internet access. This ideally takes the form of an office, so that I may organize my work in such a manner that causes maximum efficiency. I would also require a place (such as Sexuality and Civility Empowerment) for the support groups to meet if they so choose to do so on campus.
As with any project, there will be challenges. I anticipate that my own limitations in technology will be an issue, as will recruitment in the early stages of the project. As for the technological issues, I have designed a scholarship for the mobile application so that I can both give back to the university, but also so that I can devote my time to the website. Should there be problems beyond that, I am not too proud to ask for assistance and get my hands dirty! As for recruitment, I have set aside money in the budget for a reward for participants. There will be a raffle (for those who choose to enter) of 20-$50 gift cards. Any unforeseen problems will be handled with care and patience, and with the help of my faculty advisor.
I started down this path because of my own personal outrage at court cases like those involving Ke$ha, rapist Brock Turner and the Steubenville rape. In those stories I saw human beings who, like me, had had their bodily autonomy fractured and I saw the incredible strength of the survivors. It is with all of this in mind that I submit this project statement, in hopes that I might be the leader that my time at Ohio State has prepared me to be.
This project is more than just an opportunity to be the change I want to see in the world. It is the springboard I will use to further my career goals and ambitions. With graduation pending, I am applying to law schools around the country. It is a degree in criminal law which will afford me the honor of upholding justice and running for District Attorney. As District Attorney, I will continue the work I humbly began with my blog: fostering awareness and open dialogue between peoples of different backgrounds. I carry this one piece of truth with me each day, as both the inspiration for my passions, and also as the compass with which I make my decisions:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” (Seuss, Dr. The Lorax. New York: Random House, 1971.)

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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.

Give Love Today

I was going to do a piece today about trans fear at my old high school. I was going to tell you all about this great idea about how to revamp the education system so that ignorance is blotted away by comprehensive education. I was going to tell you about the hopes I have for the future.

Instead, I got in contact with the people I know from Florida, made sure they were safe.

Instead, I checked the pages of my LGBTQIAP friends, to make sure they were still alive, still safe, still okay.

Instead, I found out that there was something similar going to happen in California, but it was stopped. And that people were murdered in my home state today as well.

Instead, I searched the news, angry to find that not only had people lost their lives, there was a bomb that would have gone off as well.

Instead, I opened all my social medias and watched the solidarity of people praying for a better tomorrow.

I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry for the lives lost. I’m so sorry for the way that the education system failed. I’m so sorry that people are still afraid of what they don’t understand. I’m so sorry that hatred is a larger driving force than compassion. I’m so sorry that people will take this event to talk about Islam, LGBTQIAP and gun violence in an ignorant light, without actually helping the situation, creating more ignorance and bigotry. I’m so sorry that there were tweets this morning about “deserving it” and “AIDS on the walls”. I’m so sorry.

I won’t promote hate. I won’t hide who and what I am. But I want to ask all of my readers, followers, friends, family, fellow bloggers, and everyone who may come in contact with this post, or me, to please be careful-especially if you’re planning on going to PRIDE. Please. Don’t let hatred force you back into the shadows. But please be careful. Be safe. Be loved.

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.

 

Safety of the State

I went searching for the state of 2016 thus far. As many of you know, and the rest of you are about to find out, my true passion in both writing and in life is to get the word out about sexual assault and rape not only in America, but in the world. I focus on America a lot:

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According to the FBI crime statistics, the most sexual violence incidents happen in Alaska followed closely by South Dakota. Alaska’s reported rape is THREE times as high as the national average. Now, I am of the opinion that the need to have ANY reports is too much. I mean that in a “There shouldn’t be rape” way NOT “there shouldn’t be people reporting it” way.

To put some perspective on this:

Alaska: 80 cases per 100K

South Dakota: 70 cases per 100K

New Jersey (the lowest): 11.7 cases per 100K

For the full link and accompanying article, click here: Rape Numbers by State

Now why is this concerning? Because the majority of rapes aren’t reported. Let me repeat that for the people in the back.

The majority of people who are assaulted do not report it, making these numbers only the ones who have bravely come forward seeking justice. That means these numbers are exceptionally skewed in a bad way.

Now I’ll save ya’ll some math and just say that I understand these numbers translate to fractions of percentages of total populations but they all represent people. People I one day hope to bring justice to.

Bi-Squared

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Look at all those labels. And all for just one person. Each one a reminder of my place, of the fact that I belong in a category. Each one fitting me neatly, each one coming with a list of things that are expected of me. Some require more than others, some come with some extra baggage that doesn’t quite meet my personal hopes. (I’m looking at you, little “millennial” label!)

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Uh-oh. It’s like trying to put a star in the circle hole. It’s “okay” if you’re one or the other, but be a part of too many minorities and suddenly it can feel like everyone has an issue with your existence.

I’ve “been” bipolar for the better part of a decade. The same, I suppose, could be said for being bisexual. I like to think I’m more of a sapiosexual, someone attracted to intelligence, but I love anyone who loves me-irrespective of gender. I got married comparatively young (I was 21) and up popped the naysayers. “If you were really bisexual, you wouldn’t have married hetero. You’d have married a woman.” and “You probably just said you were bisexual for attention. You’re either straight or gay. No in-between.”

That’s pretty close to the same thing people said to me when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I got the usual “cry for attention” argument, the “making it up” comments and the “you need to just get over it” statements. It begins to feel pretty oppressive if you add both of those together, like no one wants to look at you like a complex person but a complex problem.

Looking back at my dating history, I realized that a lot of the reasons I sabotaged my relationships had more to do with the way my disorder made me than it did who I was, or who I was with. I would start a relationship with someone in a manic state and the world would come crashing down as I slipped into depression. Each relationship came with the hope that whoever I was with-regardless of gender-would be able to help me when I couldn’t help myself. I married my husband because he was the one person who looked at me and saw more than a list of symptoms and problems. He saw me as a person worthy of love and respect. It didn’t matter what category I placed myself in (or how many), but that I chose to love him for him, and not for reasons my disorder placed at the top of the list.

No matter how I (or anyone, for that matter) choose to live my life, I will always be met with criticisms. Choosing to go “off meds”, back to counseling, not have kids, and more have all come with a slew of questions that came with good intentions, but were ultimately incredibly condescending and a little rude. As someone used to it by now, I just shrug it off with a respectful attempt to educate, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have anything heartfelt to say about it!

I watch the way the world seems to come at people who are different with fear and contempt. Being bipolar is hard for a plethora of reasons, but I’ve never felt scared of the way other people would view me. Being bisexual isn’t hard (unless you make it that way), but it’s definitely easy to feel judged or inferior with things like religious freedom laws and anti-LGBT protests. Being bi-squared (what I call myself for being both bi-polar and bi-sexual), puts me in an awkwardly precarious place because a lot of people just assume that I’m messed up in the head, so my orientation is just the product of my brain being defective.

The thing is, I’m a human being-the same as you. And I wasn’t meant to fit neatly into a category, or even several of them. I’m pretty sure the only way to live life to the fullest is to just be myself-the messy, zany, passionate me that means I may fit into some categories neatly, some not so much and some not at all. Most of all though, I get to pick those categories for myself, same as you. When we learn to respect those choices, and even value someone for having the ability to choose, that’s what makes the metaphorical world go round.

May the Fourth…Be With You

Even with the current political climate, I will continue to blog about women’s issues, human rights and mental health. (I may do an expose about political climates, but at a later time.)

I recently commented (on Facebook) on a local news station’s announcement of the discussion of banning non-essential traffic from Ohio to North Carolina, because of the “bathroom bill”. Me being me, I had to comment-I love human rights issues (because they are opportunities to expand my awareness and activism). Here’s what I expected going in, and what I hoped for:

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Expect: People to disagree, challenge my views.

Hope: I could change someone’s mind.

What I didn’t expect was the vicious content that would ensue. I will retype here what I typed there, and then tell you about the responses.

The thing is, rapists and sexual predators have been coming after women and children for years, decades and no one has bothered to put up this amount of riotous behavior. It isn’t about bathrooms, just as it has never been. It is about the average person not understanding that which they fear. If it was their children, their siblings, who were transgender or transsexual, then perhaps the tides would change towards equality. However, with all this being said, I am incredibly proud to call Ohio my home, and Columbus my city. It is incredibly easy to cry foul play when you feel like your rights are being infringed upon, but the reality of the situation is that the rights of the cis- have always been safe. It is now up to the minorities, those who have not had access to the same rights, to rise up and cry out as loudly as they can. Freedom isn’t free, and equality isn’t universal. Yet. But with a little understanding, a little empathy and some patience, perhaps we, as the American people (and Ohioans!) can usher in a new era of acceptance, love and humility-putting aside the fear mongering, the hatred and the ignorance. Thank you, Columbus City Council. May love prevail!

Now, yes. It does sound like a naive college student with liberal ideas wrote that. You’d be reading that same view point in all of my blogs. However, what I said was (in my mind) respectful, and reflected my true feelings. I didn’t name call, I didn’t stoop to low levels, I tried to remain calm in a conversation topic where tempers run rampant.

Some of the responses included (I copied and pasted-so any misspellings or poor grammar are as they were written by the original posters):

“What love? U certainly show none”

“Jared fogel and friends loves and thanks u”

“Pedophiles or rapist to pretend their transgender to exploit it. If you don’t think they will do that you need to take off your love cures all blinders right now. They are liars, manipulates and they will do anything to fulfill their sexual desires.”

“Where does this end, at what point do pedophiles get granted their rights.”

“Seriously, I think it’s just another card to pull, I have a male friend who is gay, he always says, if they talk to me like that, I’ll pull the gay card, if I get fired I’ll pull the gay card, that’s all I hear… Where the hell is the straight card? It’s all about control and money…”

“Play every last PC Card like a typical liberal. Call common sense “fear mongering” to try’n get your way. Grow a pair while your at it.”

Now, at this point I have to mention that my comment to the last one was (It’s my favorite comment):

And if I did, in fact, “grow a pair”, NAME DELETED, would that allow me to use the rest room in peace? My career is in human rights, so you’ll forgive me if I continue promoting equality instead of pulling America backwards.

I have been called a murderer because of my stance on abortions, I have been called all the usual things that men call women who are strong and opinionated. I have struggled with my identity and ideas in light of these things, and I have to say, I believe I have come out of this ordeal (and others) a stronger, more sure person.

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I was asked if I believed that someone would willingly submit themselves to a future if they weren’t even part of the group. I had, at that point, answered that although I consider myself bisexual, I had played the part of “lesbian girlfriend” for several of my friends who were in a situation that merited my actions. So when I think of that question now, and try to apply it to this topic, I can only be reaffirmed by my ideas before.

I know I’m a very passionate, outspoken, opinionated individual. I know that I do my best to listen to other people’s ideas, and that I try to be respectful at all times. I also know that I have to stand up for what I believe is right. That’s what it means to truly live. And so I will not be hurt by the people calling me names, or making suggestions about the way I live my life. I will continue to fight for justice, as long as I live.

I don’t think that all Americans believe this way. I don’t even think it’s a majority of them. But what I do think, is that there are a large portion of people who have opinions about this and other issues who choose to remain silent. I can’t remain silent while my friends, old acquaintances, family members, find themselves fearing for their basic rights. I have plans, I have hopes and dreams, and because I ally myself this way, because I belong to several minorities (which will be a blog post on its own), I may be forced into some tight spots. But I choose to believe that justice and love with shine through, and I will not remain silent.