What Comes Next

In response to the events of the recent past, I have no more words-I have said what I needed to, and the extent of my voice has been used. What comes next? Actions. For too long, I have been behind the scenes planning and debating and thinking. I wallowed in my defeats and I am prepared to start the good fight (or rather, continue it more actively). I can’t say it’s a surprise, but I’d like to pop away for a moment from politics and do what I do best-speak from the heart about issues important to me.

I applied to law school today. My applications are finished, and my letter of rec providers have been notified and I’m preparing for my LSAT in just three weeks. I debated long and hard about whether or not being a sexual assault/rape prosecutor would still be a viable job option for me and ultimately I decide yes.

The need for a compassionate, justice driven lawyer who actively works to better the lives of victims has never been more necessary. I have not changed-I still want to help people who have experienced the depravity of the human condition and I know that it’s something I am uniquely qualified to do. So I will-and I will do so most fervently.

There is one more way I can help-and it’s something I’m going to actively pursue for the time being, to see where it leads me and that’s politics. I’m not going to make this all about me just yet-but I’ll keep you informed. I’m going to be 25 next year, which puts me right in the prime zone for House Of Representatives in the midterms. But as I said, more on that later.

Bill Cosby believes that he will return to his career after his case is over. A picture of Taylor Swift was leaked in connection with her sexual assault case. Donald Trump’s case was dropped. DePaul University saw an increase in sexual assault crimes this week. My own university saw an increase in hate crimes. And the list, quite literally, goes on.

But you know what? I’ve seen incredible kindnesses this week as well. I saw friends gathering together to keep each other safe, I saw (and was involved in) several hugs with strangers (with consent to hug, of course!) and I know that there are good people out there.

I wanted to do a full report over the cases like I usually do-but I’m still not done talking about love and acceptance. It’s what the world needs right now-it’s what I need right now-and I hope that wherever you are, you find a little piece of hope as well.

I’ve lost family members over this election. I have friends who were disowned over this election. Trust me, I understand. I’m in the boat with you, and all I’m asking is that we not let this boat sink.

Love and light, people. For the night is dark and full of terrors.

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:

trans equal

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.

equal

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.

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
  • Autism Speaks Autism Speaks offers resources for people with autism, including advice and resources for prevention of sexual violence and survivors of sexual violence with autism.

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.

 

Why Seeing Isn’t Always Believing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

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

  

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

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

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

  

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

And now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Twas The Week of the LSAT

Ever since I decided I wanted to be a diplomat, I have been researching the job, deciding how best to fulfill my dreams and really just trying to find out if that really was the best decision for me. Ultimately I decided it was, that I needed to go to law school..

Stop.

Law. School. Admission. Test.

 
 Four of the scariest words in my life. And you all think I’m joking. But on the review websites for the GRE and the MCAT (Grad School and Med School respectively) there are the people who say things like “Honestly, it’s hard, but f you just take some practice tests, you’ll be fine.” The LSAT reviews? They ALL say things like “If you don’t study every day for 7 hours, at least 9 months in advance, you’re doomed.”

Okay, so maybe I’m getting a little carried away. Or maybe not. But here’s my thoughts on the subject.

I’m not a simpleton. I know I can and will succeed. I know that there are people who took the test before me, and will take it after me and life will go on. The only difference is, I will be going to law school. (I know that for sure, I just need the scores to tell me which one haha).And I’m going to make something of myself. In 4 years from now, I will be a lawyer! But not just that, I will have taken the FSOT (Foreign Service Operative Test) and be *hopefully* on my way to being a diplomat. In this I am very confident. But I just feel like this entire week has been a mental game that has gone on for far too long.

  
It all started Saturday, one week from test day. I knew I had 7 days to prepare myself, to give myself the best chance I could. I became nervous. Like, pit of the stomach cranky nervous.

Sunday, the panic set in. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep and I began grinding my teeth at night. This is something I haven’t done since my senior year in high school when I had to decide where I would go for college. See the connection?

Monday, my jaw hurt from the grinding, but I felt like I was starving. I couldn’t find it in me to get enough caffeine. This was my first tip off that I was more stressed than I let on. Me and not wanting caffeine is NOT normal behavior. Clearly.

Tuesday, I drank more caffeine than the last three days combined. (Back to normal?) My jaw quit hurting and I scurried to do all my homework for the week. I rarely do homework marathons, but I needed to get everything done. ASAP.

Today, I woke up late, got to work late and grabbed a tumbler of cold, left-over-from-yesterday coffee before starting my day. I think I’m just about crazy. In the first hour of my day, I had more accidents, more uh-ohs and more “oh crap”s than I have probably all week semester. I will get home and inevitably either not be able to sleep, of fall asleep for 500000000 hours. (I know, that’s the one I’m assuming too.)

Tomorrow: I begin practice scenario day 1. I have taken practice tests before, but this day will be timed and punctual, as if I were actually taking the test. It’s going to be me against the exam, and I really have to try hard.

Friday: Simulation day 2. I cleared it with my boss, I won’t be coming in and I will instead be doing more practice tests, same as Thursday. But I assume there will be more panic for this one. And just like a child on Christmas Eve, I won’t be able to sleep, I’ll be up all night and then when I do fall asleep, I will wake up with a terrible stomach ache and find out I only slept for two hours before needing to leave. Which brings us to:

Saturday: Game day. Let the all out screaming, panic induced brain games begin! I will inevitably grab a large coffee, need to pee before my test, get anxious, start pacing, get the notice to take my seat and then I will be in total concentration mode. I love that part of me. I can stress out about a situation for weeks and then get to that moment and everything will just go away and I will be able to complete my task with the utmost efficiency and calm. Works like a charm every time.

Sunday: As a reward, I will be going on a friend date to see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Because Jane Austen is the best, and I’m just a big sucker for the undead. I literally cannot wait for this. It is my secondary source of hope. 
Now that you all have my week’s planner, let me tell you about this big scary monster test.

First, I had to go get a passport photo. And if you’ve ever taken one yourself, it is the most stressful thing on the planet. The lighting has to be just perfect, no glare, perfect exposure. So I did that, ordered it online and then my order was delayed. I went to the store and found out their printer was making excess lines in the photos so I was going to have to wait. I did and got the photos about an hour later, but I had nothing short of a breakdown first. While I was at the store, I had to pick up wooden pencils, because mechanical ones aren’t allowed. I also picked up some really nice erasers, because reasons. And I can have a water bottle and some snacks, but everything I own has to be in a gallon ziplock. I can’t have anything electronic on my person, so I can only carry my keys, wallet, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpener, my admission ticket and my water and snack. That list makes me feel naked as a person. I rarely go anywhere without my phone, even if it’s just in my pocket and I don’t use it. Also, I’ve used mechanical pencils or years. Wooden ones are not my specialty. But I guess it’s alright, because I will be going to law school where I’m pretty sure they’re okay with me carrying mechanical pencils, pens and my phone.

Anyway, I guess I’m going to be away from social media for the next couple days and that’s my story. I’ll see you all on the other side of the weekend!

  

The Science of You…and Me.

I’ve been trying to get acclimated to the new semester, and I think it’s okay to take a break from constantly ranting and raving. Today, I want to speak honestly about life. But the stuff that weighs on my heart is the issue of self-identification.

In one of my classes this semester, we’re discussing classifications of organisms (as a prequel to the rest of the material) and the question was asked: Why do we classify things? The answer was: to order a chaotic world. I think that for the most part, that’s pretty true. But I think we, as human beings, also want to belong. We have a sense of longing to be part of something greater than just our own individuality. And maybe that seems a little naive, but maybe it isn’t.

  

I think I’ve mentioned this a couple times throughout the life of my blog, about where do I as an individual fit in to life’s big puzzle. But I invite you all to also think about it. How do you identify yourself? Is it just through your name? Your preferences? Your associations? What about who you are as a single individual, without regard to someone or something else? How would your identification change? It’s no difficult task to put yourself in a category. It’s an entirely other matter to design the category that you alone fit in.

Allow me to demonstrate. I am a pretty much run-of-the-mill midwestern woman. I tie my hair up in ponytails, I drink coffee, I know how to shovel snow, care for sick animals and even how to field dress carcasses (I really don’t enjoy it though, but if the great earth mother gives unto us, it is disrespectful to waste that gift. And I try not to partake either.). I am a wife, a cat-loving-dog-owner (he’s my little cat-dog), a sister, a daughter, a student, an employee and a coworker, a friend, a dreamer, and I’d say most definitely an extroverted introvert (yea, I know. It gives me problems too.). But take away anything that has to do with someone else (so-daughter, wife, sister, worker, etc) and take away the references to religion, geography, capabilities and preferences. What is left?

I call that “left” stuff the essence of me. But I don’t really know what it is. Is it emotion? Because I have quite a bit of that. Is it personality? I think I have a decent amount of that too. Is it what I am made of? Atoms, cells, blood, skin, organs, memories? I mean, I suppose that would have to be included. So what am I that no one else is? I am me and you are you. And I couldn’t be you if I tried, but I wouldn’t want you to be me either.

I know, you were all expecting for the meaning of life. And I shan’t disappoint! Because each and everything that I have said is both true and false. And I hope you’ve stuck around long enough to see why.

In the very beginning of time, before history, before science, before everything we know, there were stars. And these stars grew until they could grow no more, exploding when they reached their peak. When these stars explode, they create a bunch of atoms, in the order of the periodic table. First Hydrogen, then Helium, then Lithium, Beryllium, and so on and so forth until at least Iron (which is the 26th element). Each atom mixes with the others, out in space, combining and pulling apart. Now why am I telling you this?

  

There is a law in science called the Conservation of Energy. Now, in science, a law means that hundreds, if not thousands of test have been done and for all intents and purposes, the law is a scientific fact. This is why no one disputes gravity-even though you can’t see it directly. Anyway, the Conservation of Energy can be simplified down to the following: no energy can be created or destroyed in a system. There is also the law of the Conservation of Mass. This also is simplified down to: no mass (the stuff everything is made of) can be created or destroyed in a system. So what does that have to do with anything?

Well, we know that a human is made up of a lot of water, but what else? If you look at the most common elements that a body is made up of you get: Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Calcium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Sulfur, Sodium, Chlorine and Magnesium. Now if you look at a Periodic Table of Elements, you’ll see that those elements are numbered: 8, 6, 1, 7, 20, 15, 19, 16, 11, 17 and 12. Iron, as I said is 26, which means that all of the elements that make up most of us come before Iron. That further means that the stars that exploded made the elements I have listed here.

  

If I haven’t lost you yet, I’m very glad! Because the laws I mentioned, they come into play here. Since absolutely nothing can be made or destroyed, the atoms (which make up the mass of everything) which make up you and I came from the explosions of the stars. So here’s the deal. We are all made up of the little tiny particles which first originated in stars. So when you hear people say “We are stardust”, believe them. Because although this information is all paraphrased from other sources, it remains true. And just incase you wanted to know more about the meaning of life, let me explain death.

Before I really go on, let me tell you a story (you know that’s my thing!). I once went to a funeral of a family member and sat in the back, just observing. I watched the widow sit in the front row, the handkerchief crumpled in her hands, her eyes puffy and red from crying. But what I had not expected to happen, was the moment I caught her eye. I looked away immediately, not out of shame, but out of the understanding that I could not bear the weight of her pain. It would have been far easier if her eyes had been dead, the windows to a soul lost to the oblivion. But they weren’t. They were the windows to summer basketball sessions between her late husband and her kids, the early mornings when snow would lightly fall and she would watch him sleep. They were the windows to a thousand more “I love you’s” which would fall on deaf ears and the echoes of petty fights that would haunt her recollection for years to come. And at the funeral of a childhood friend, I remember looking at his body, thinking about how many times that might have been me, how even in death, he didn’t seem so happy, but maybe that’s because his body was pumped full of gallons worth of chemicals and the makeup could not hide the way his neck curved ever so violently, the ghost of a rope ever so snug around the collar of his dress jacket.

  

If no matter and no energy can be lost or created, what happens at death? Quite obviously, there is still mass. You have a body almost always, a quiet shell of a person lying still. But a person while living maintains the energy of thought, of breath, of circulation. And once ceased, that energy cannot be destroyed. The body heat rises into the atmosphere, reuniting with the clouds, the rain and the air. The breath that once ran through them now runs though the atmosphere. The memories which gave fuel to their every move, their every sense of self, they belong now to the people who need them most, to those with whom they were shared before. And I think that is a lovely thing. We are both part of the universe and made up of it. We cannot be created from nothing and we cannot disappear to nothing. The life of each and every one of us was determined by the star explosion, the energy and life of others, the ability to continue on. And that’s why it’s entirely okay if you could not define yourself as just yourself before. Because in all honesty, you really can’t be you without others. But it’s okay. Because the others couldn’t be themselves without you either.

  

A Day in the Life of…

So normally I try to write about something very near and dear to me, something that isn’t overly political, but is something that I am pretty passionate about. A little while ago, I posted about how I thought it was incredibly wrong to force people to go to college. And today, I want to present the other side. A personal narrative of what it’s like going to college in today’s world. And hopefully, to dispell some college myths. I’ve screen-shotted my proof for numbers, although they are easily available on Google.

I don’t know how many people relate, but it really grinds my gears when I hear “Why can’t you just save up money?” Or “Working through college isn’t that hard.” Or “Back in my day, you could rent an apartment and go to college on a part time job.” These sentences may have been true at one point, and that question may be well-intended, but I believe that they are incredibly un-applicable (inapplicable?) to today’s college generation. This will be, as always, just my experience, mi cuenta. 

Classes began yesterday. And if you live north, so did the snow. I woke up around 620, took the dog out, fixed lunch and made sure my husband was up. While he was finishing getting ready, I ran out to get the car scraped. He locked up and we left for class. The roads were slick, the cars were thick and it added some time to our drive. Rush hour in Ohio always does. We made it to school, and work in my case, and began classes. We got back to home about 12 hours later. The wind blew, but I walked over 2 miles yesterday, and will do so all semester, regardless of weather. And my husband’s walk is almost 4 miles a day. Just to get between classes. We’re both taking upper division classes (stuff meant for graduate students-not undergrad) and we’re trudging along.

Ohio State’s tuition is dependent on where you call home. For me, it has always been Ohio, so I get in-state tuition, as does my husband. For just one of us, it costs $20,144 USD just to attend for one year. That doesn’t include gas, rent, food or supplies. So, living in a big city is pretty expensive. If you say $200 in groceries for 1 person per month, plus $700 per person for rent/utilities per month, plus $100 a month for supplies/gas, that’s $1000 a month PER PERSON on living expenses. **NOTE: I am using the second set of numbers as my reference, because I live off campus in an apartment, so I’m filling in my numbers instead. And that supplies number isn’t adequate, so I’ve included the personal amount to fix it.**

So, in total, it is $20,144 + ($1000 x 12) = $32,144 per person just to go to classes for one full year.

  Two we people’s total is $32,144 x 2 = $64,288 for one year of college. And this is a public, state school. I shudder to imagine a private university. And this number doesn’t include emergencies like a broken down car, hospital trips, doctor visits or any other emergency things. If it did, it would look more like $70,000 USD.

So let’s look at the job markets and such. We’ll take a minimum wage job, because mostly the college population has one of those.  I have included my google search for current, factual information.

 
So, we have $8.10 USD as the minimum wage. So let’s discuss hours. The minimum amount of class time you can have at OSU is 12 credit hours. That, from my understanding means that you will have 12 hours of class per week, or around 3 per class. You can go up to 18 credit hours. So one week has an entire 7 x 24 hours = 168 hours. Suppose you’Re taking the upper limit of credit hours. That is 168-18 right off the bat. So 150 hours of the week is left.

Ohio State recommends that for every 1 hour of class, 3 hours are spent in homework to achieve a passing grade (taken to mean “C”). The picture I have is from the U of Michigan website.

  
(Notice how if you take 18 Credit Hours, it is recommended that you work less than 20 hours.) So to catch us up, we have 150 hours in a week after classes. Now,  18 x 3 = 54 hours. So, 150-54 is 96 hours in a week left. Let’s say that you sleep 8 hours a night. 8 x 7 =56. So you are down to 40 hours a week left. But what about drive time?

It takes us anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour to get to campus, even from where we live, depending on when we leave. So, if we were to leave every day during rush hour (because Ohio is famous for it), it would take an hour both ways. That is 5 x 2 = 10. So if you take that away from the 40 hours you had, you are now down to 30 hours left in the week. Take another 10 from that for dinner/eating each day and you are at 20 hours left for the week.

Suppose you were a scary person and you didn’t ever have any fun what-so-ever and you worked the rest of the 20 hours. You’d have to include the fact that you have to drive there (assuming you don’t get a job on campus while you’re already there. So take an additional 5 hours off of that number for driving to work. You are left with 15 hours to work.

Remember that minimum wage from above? Bring it down here.

$8.10 USD x 15 hours = $121.50 USD before taxes. In my best effort to predict my checks, I use 86% as the amount of the paycheck I will actually get post-taxes. So, if you’re using that too, $121.50 x .86 = $104.49 USD. For the month? That total is $417.96

So. Let’s wrap this up, shall we?

“Why can’t you save money?” Because making $417.96 per month (or $5015.52 a year!) compared to spending $32,144 doesn’t really put much of a dent in my student loans, and to be fair, I use the money I supplement with working a part time job to pay for the emergency stuff (and to apply to grad schools, law schools and register for the entrance exams-which cost $200 a piece).

“Working through college isn’t hard.” Well, as I hope I have illustrated for you, it IS possible to work during college, and I do so. However, I’m not sure I would ever call it easy. I mean, I like being able to work out, grab coffee with my friends and spend time with my husband, but those things take time and make life meaningful so I sacrifice work for them.

“Back in my day, you could rent an apartment and go to college on a part time job.” I’m very happy for you. But with today’s numbers, a part time job barely covers food for my husband and I for the month. (And let me remind you that these numbers did not include birthday presents, Christmas presents, lab fees, parking passes ($800 USD a year), fast food, or any “luxuries” that a person may want.) 

This blog post was not meant to be a “Michelle Complains About College Again!” Rant. That was NEVER my intention.

What I want you to see, maybe even empathize with or understand better is that going to college is a big commitment and what may have been true for older generations during their time, their 20s, is no longer true today. And we should stop using antiquated information to make generalizations about today’s 20-somethings.

And to round us out, here are some memes about college which I find funny and insightful.