• Carolyn – Advocacy and Communications Specialist

  • P3 - Contributing Authors

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month – Here’s what the Tri-Valley Haven is doing to Help!

Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)

We are mid-way through the month of April already!  It’s amazing how time flies! Halfway through April also means halfway through Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  While in some ways, it might seem nice to be halfway through a month of an emotionally difficult topic, SAAM is such a valuable means of raising awareness about sexual assault – how often it happens, who it happens to, the effects it can have on survivors and the family and friends of those survivors, and what we can do to help.  You know someone who has been affected by sexual assault – as sadly common as it is, the odds make that a guarantee.  That person could be someone you only know in passing, or a coworker, a neighbor, a friend, a best friend, a relative, a parent, a child… or you.  Whoever that person is, he or she deserves support, someone to listen to their story, someone to remind them that sexual assault is never the fault of the victim, and access to resources for healing.  Read on for more information about SAAM.

Tri-Valley Haven’s SAAM Activities Still to Come

April 23rd - Denim Day. 

Join us and Rape Crisis Centers Nationwide.  Wear denim on April 23rd and tell people why!  For great ideas on how to spread the practice and teachings of Denim Day, go to the Denim Day Official Resources Page!  You can also connect with the #denimday online movement to end sexual violence.

April 24
- Tri-Valley Haven and Los Positas Health Center Team Up for SAAM 

Tri-Valley Haven, in collaboration with the Las Positas Health & Wellness Center, will be hosting a Las Positas SAAM event at the college on Thursday, April 24th from 11 AM to 1 PM. There will be a Tri-Valley Haven table full of resources and information outside in the Quad near the student cafeteria.  Not only that, we will have a traveling display of our Clothesline Project with us as well!

April 25th – Candlelight March in Livermore
 

 Every year in April, supporters, volunteers and staff of Tri-Valley Haven converge on downtown Livermore to honor survivors  , celebrate our newest volunteer advocates as they graduate from our three-month, intensive training, give out information on services and resources, take strength from our united presence, and raise awareness of our mission to build a world without violence.  Previous guest speakers at Tri-Valley Haven marches have been Senator Ellen Corbett, Senate Majority Leader and great supporter of women’s issues, and other local luminaries. 

This year’s march will start at 7:00 PM on Friday, April 25th.  Meet us at Lizzy Fountain Park in downtown Livermore, at the corner of First Street and North Livermore Avenue.  This is a family-friendly event and everyone is welcome!  Come see the display of t-shirts from the Clothesline Project, get your candles, and join us in our short march along First Street.  The weather is always beautiful and we would love to have you join us. 

April 25th – The Clothesline Project


The Clothesline Project (CLP) is a program started on Cape Cod, MA, in 1990 to address the issue of  violence against women. It is a vehicle for women affected by violence to express their emotions by decorating a shirt. They then hang the shirt on a clothesline to be viewed by others as testimony to the problem of violence against women. With the support of many, it has since spread world-wide.

Last year, the Clothesline Project took off at Tri-Valley Haven.  Haven supporters, staff and volunteers all made shirts in support.  Most importantly, however, residents at our shelter and members of our support groups created t-shirts detailing their experiences and their hopes for the future.  These powerful works of art were displayed at our Candlelight March, at Las Positas College, and in front of the Tri-Valley Haven Community Building during the month.

This year, we invite you to make shirts and bring them to the Candlelight March to add to our display (see below).  New shirts from the shelters and other supporters and survivors will join the traveling exhibit at Las Positas College on April 24th and in downtown Livermore on April 25th.  All the rest of the month, the shirts will be on display every day outside our Community Building on Pacific Avenue.  We urge you to participate by making a shirt, or coming to see and be moved by the shirts made by others.

Tri-Valley Haven’s Newest Advocacy Efforts – Santa Rita Jail and the Prison Rape Elimination Act

Prisoner rape is a national human rights crisis, but it’s a crisis we can end. Every year, at least 216,600 people – more than a quarter of the population of San Francisco – are sexually abused in U.S. detention facilities. That’s the number of people who are abused, not the number of incidents; each victim is assaulted on average three to five times a year
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Sexual abuse is never an appropriate punishment and never part of the sentence, no matter what the crime. This type of abuse is also not inevitable. Over the last decade, a growing number of people – including many corrections officials – have begun to agree with what advocates have been saying all along: We

can stop prisoner rape.Now, thanks to a landmark law, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), we have the tools to do just that.  Within the past six months, Tri-Valley Haven has begun to collaborate with the staff of Santa Rita Jail to provide sexual assault advocacy services for incarcerated survivors of sexual assault.  This collaboration part of the PREA standards passed last year which have given the law (which has been around since 2003), some real practical ability to address the problem of sexual abuse of persons in the custody of U.S. correctional agencies.

  Among its unprecedented provisions, the standards mandate strong protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender inmates; a ban on routine pat-down searches of female adult inmates by male staff; strict limitations on the housing of youth in adult facilities; and a requirement that all facilities undergo independent audits every three years.The standards also require that facilities offer survivors access to rape crisis counselors – trained experts who provide crisis intervention and emotional support in the aftermath of an assault. In other words, in the case of Santa Rita jail… Tri-Valley Haven advocates.

Within the six months since Tri-Valley Haven has begun responding to reports at Santa Rita, we have been able to provide outreach, crisis intervention, and resources for multiple inmates. We are glad to have the opportunity to reach these individuals, who are – by the nature of the system – vulnerable to assault, and who also – by the nature of the system – may not have many opportunities to get support after an attack.

How Big of a Problem is Sexual Assault Against Inmates?
  • 1 in 10 former State inmates reports having been sexually assaulted while incarcerated.
  • About half of these assaults are perpetrated by other inmates, the other half by staff.
  • Perpetrators tend to target people living with a disability or illness, those with a previous history of trauma or sexual assault, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or gender non-conforming inmates.
  • Prisoner rape, either by other inmates or by staff, is regarded as torture under international law.  
How You Can Help
Tri-Valley Haven receives no additional funding for this outreach into the detention system to help survivors of sexual assault behind bars.  Donations by our supporters are always gratefully accepted.

No More…

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NO MORE is a new unifying symbol designed to galvanize greater awareness and action to end domestic violence and sexual assault.  Supported by major organizations working to address these urgent issues, NO MORE is gaining support with Americans nationwide, sparking new conversations about these problems and moving this cause higher on the public agenda.

The next time you’re in a room with 6 people, think about this:

  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experience violence from their partners in their lifetimes.
  • 1 in 3 teens experience sexual or physical abuse or threats from a boyfriend or girlfriend in one year.
  • 1 in 5 women are survivors of rape.
  • 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced some form of sexual victimization in their lives.
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18.

These are not numbers. They’re our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, co-workers and friends. They’re the person you confide in most at work, the guy you play basketball with, the people in your book club, your poker buddy, your teenager’s best friend – or your teen, herself. The silence and shame must end for good.  Check out a video for NO MORE at this link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTp-k5G_okY

HOW YOU CAN SPREAD THE WORD:

Say it: Learn about these issues and talk openly about them. Break the silence. Speak out. Seek help when you see this problem or harassment of any kind in your family, your community, your workplace or school. Upload your photo to the NO MORE gallery and tell us why you say NO MORE.

Share it: Help raise awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault by sharing NO MORE. Share the PSAs. Download the Tools to Say NO MORE and share NO MORE with everyone you know. Facebook it. Tweet it. Instagram it. Pin it.

Show it: Show NO MORE by wearing your NO MORE gear everyday, supporting partner groups working to end domestic violence and sexual assault and volunteering in your community.

(Just FYI, Tri-Valley Haven (www.trivalleyhaven.org) is your local domestic violence shelter and rape crisis center if you are located near the Tri-Valley area of California.  Consider partnering with us to end domestic violence in your hometown!)

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Maureen, Tri-Valley Haven’s lead educator, shares her reason why she says “NO MORE.”

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Support Tri-Valley Haven, Watch Amazing Theater! Laugh with Friends! See “The Good Body” at Las Positas!

This blog post is completely dedicated to our upcoming production of “The Good Body” on Friday, February 7th at 8 pm, Saturday, February 8th at 8 pm, and Sunday, February 9th at 2 pm at the Las Positas Mertes Theater in Livermore, CA. Tickets are on sale now: http://thegoodbody.brownpapertickets.com

 In “The Good Body”, Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues”, examines the female form in a hilarious, revealing, and compassionate way. Whether undergoing Botox injections or living beneath burqas, women of all cultures and backgrounds feel compelled to change the way they look in order to fit it. “The Good Body” merges cross-cultural explorations with Eve Ensler’s personal journey.

 Directed by local favorite, Eleisa Cambra, all proceeds from this extraordinary production go to Tri-Valley Haven to end violence against women and girls.  We’ve got the talent!  We’ve got the fantastic script!  We’ve got the theater and the programs and the tickets!   

 ALL WE NEED NOW TO MAKE THIS EVENT A FUN-FILLED SUCCESS… IS YOU!  JOIN US!

(But wait!  There’s more to this post!)

Lisa, Director of “The Good Body”, Dishes on the Play, Why You Want to Go, and Her Superpowers! 1383159_10151659860885213_2064949460_n

You have been the very successful director that got “The Vagina Monologues” rolling in Livermore as a benefit for Tri-Valley Haven. Do you want to tell us a little bit about how you got involved in the project? 

 “A dear friend of mine  was dating a woman that works at Tri-Valley Haven. I invited him to bring her to a show that I was stage-managing at the Village Theater in Danville. After the show, she came up to me and said that the Haven was thinking about doing “The Vagina Monologues.” I told her, “You are talking to the right gal!”  (Hehe! No ego here!) After that, we got together and it grew from there, a beautiful accident. I’m really lucky that I’ve been able to be a part of this, and to have been able to contribute to the Tri-Valley Haven.”

 In “The Vagina Monologues”, there is a section called “What Would Your Vagina Say?” In the case of “The Good Body” maybe the question should be, “What does ‘a good body’ mean to you?” Is it tall and thin, or curvy, or super-fit? Or is it something totally different for you?

 “The perfect body is the one you’re in! Getting comfortable with our own skin is where it’s at, and that’s what the show is about. “The Good Body” reminds us to be comfortable with our own body and ourselves just the way we are. The show takes a funny look at how we relate to our bodies and our bodies and food. It’s funny and poignant and transforming.  Everybody should come out and see it!”

 Speaking of bodies and food, if I came to your home and looked inside the refrigerator, what would I find?

 “My frig is usually pretty empty. Right now there are cucumbers, brussel sprouts, spinach, kale, polenta, and coffee creamer!”

 What’s your background in theater?

 “I have been doing theater all of my life, from putting on puppet shows as a kid for the neighborhood, to assistant directing/stage managing main stage productions around the Bay Area. I’ve done set design, set building, lighting design, props, technical directing, acting… you name it, I’ll do it!  Speaking of my background, I am over the moon to be putting this show on at Las Positas! I was able to be a part of many many productions at Las Positas. I owe a debt of gratitude to the Theater Arts Department and the faculty and staff here at the college. It’s where I got my foundation in theatre.”

 Who is a woman who is a hero to you, and why?

 “The only hero I have is Mr. Rogers. No matter what, he always loved me just the way I was. ♡”

 People might look at the name of this play and think, “What is this thing all about?” If you had to tell someone who was debating buying a ticket why they would totally miss out if they didn’t see the show, what would you tell them?

 “Come to the show because you LOVE live entertainment, because you want to laugh and be moved, and because you care about the work Tri-Valley Haven does.  The play is about our relationship with our bodies and FOOD! We can all relate to at least one of the characters.”

 Last question:  Name your superpower!  

 “My superpower is control and domination; need I say more?”

 Nope!  I think that explains why you’re such an amazing director! Thanks, Lisa, for everything that you do!   

20 Ways to Love Your Body

In honor of our production of “The Good Body”, here is a great list of ways to love and honor your body and to foster a positive body image for yourself, courtesy of the organization NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) and compiled by Margo Maine, PhD.

  1. Think of your body as the vehicle to your dreams.  Honor it.  Respect it.  Fuel it.
  2. Create a list of all the things your body lets you do.  Read it and add to it often.
  3. Become aware of what your body can do each day.  Remember it is the instrument of your life, not just an ornament.
  4. Create a list of people you admire:  people who have contributed to your life, your community, or the world.  Consider whether their appearance was important to their success and accomplishments.
  5. Walk with your head held high, supported by pride and confidence in yourself as a person.
  6. Don’t let your weight or shape keep you from activities that you enjoy.
  7. Wear comfortable clothes that you like, that express your personal style, and that feel good to your body.
  8. Count your blessings, not your blemishes.
  9. Think about all the things you could accomplish with the time and energy you currently spend worrying about your body and appearance.  Try one!
  10. Be your body’s friend and supporter, not its enemy.
  11. Consider this:  your skin replaces itself once a month, your stomach lining every five days, your liver every six weeks, and your skeleton every three months.  Your body is extraordinary-begin to respect and appreciate it.
  12. Every morning when you wake up, thank your body for resting and rejuvenating itself so you can enjoy the day.
  13. Every evening when you go to bed, tell your body how much you appreciate what it has allowed you to do throughout the day.
  14. Find a method of exercise that you enjoy and do it regularly. Don’t exercise to lose weight or to fight your body. Do it to make your body healthy and strong and because it makes you feel good.  Exercise for the Three F’s: Fun, Fitness, and Friendship.
  15. Think back to a time in your life when you felt good about your body.  Loving your body means you get to feel like that again, even in this body, at this age.
  16. Keep a list of 10 positive things about yourself-without mentioning your appearance.  Add to it daily!
  17. Put a sign on each of your mirrors saying, “I’m beautiful inside and out.”
  18. Search for the beauty in the world and in yourself.
  19. Consider that, “Life is too short to waste my time hating my body this way.”
  20. Eat when you are hungry.  Rest when you are tired.  Surround yourself with people that remind you of your inner strength and beauty.

“The Good Body” has a GREAT Director! (And here is more about her, in her own words!)

1383159_10151659860885213_2064949460_nEleisa Cambra has directed multiple shows of “The Vagina Monologues” for Tri-Valley Haven and is a powerhouse woman, with years of theater experience, a great sense of humor, a clear vision, and a whole load of courage.  She is also an alum of Las Positas College’s theater department, so putting the new show, “The Good Body” by Eve Ensler, on at Las Positas’ Mertes theater is a great opportunity!

I have gotten the chance to talk to Eleisa about what brought her to initially work with the Tri-Valley Haven putting on The Vagina Monologues, and other questions–some serious and some less so–to give you all a chance to meet her.  The interview will be in multiple parts, each one a question.  So, without further ado…

You have been the very successful director that got “The Vagina Monologues” rolling in Livermore as a benefit for Tri-Valley Haven. Do you want to tell us a little bit about how you got involved in the project?

Lisa:  “A dear friend of mine was dating a woman that works at Tri-Valley Haven. I invited him to bring her to a show that I was stage-managing at the Village Theater in Danville. After the show, she came up to me and said that the Haven was thinking about doing “The Vagina Monologues.” I told her, “You are talking to the right gal!”  (Hehe! No ego here!) After that, we got together and it grew from there, a beautiful accident. I’m really lucky that I’ve been able to be a part of this, and to have been able to contribute to the Tri-Valley Haven.”

More in our next post! :)

 

Boosting the Signal: WARP’D (Women Actively Rejecting Personal Distortion) — aka, amazing and inspiring teens!

“Imagine how life would be if… instead of making resolutions about body image at the end of the year— every woman made a resolution to treat herself and others with utmost respect and dignity. That is what I call a resolution!” -Tori Knuppe

Foothill High School junior Victoria Knuppe wants to change how women and girls see themselves— one woman at a time. An ambitious undertaking, indeed, given the messages seen in society, the current culture and an ubiquitous media but 16-year-old Knuppe is more than ready for the challenge. She is on a mission.

Knuppe believes women are “plagued with feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness” and says she also struggles with “self-image issues.”

“It genuinely breaks my heart to see the physical effects of this problem across the nation and the world,” Knuppe said. “And, what’s more, it breaks my heart to see nothing being done about it.”

[Reblog of article on Tori here at this link]

[Direct link to her website WARPD.org is here]

The Mask U Live In

The Mask U Live In

This is so important. In my work, I deal a lot with some of the fallout of a culture that demands these roles of men and boys. The victims of a society where men’s roles and women’s roles are so “boxed in” are not limited to the women and children impacted (literally and sometimes fatally) by domestic violence or sexual assault… the victims are also the men: both the ones who are perpetrators and the ones struggling to just live and become complete people. All of us deserve to be able to express the full spectrum of what it is to be human. Men shoved behind the “Be a Man” mask and women shoved behind the “Act Like a Lady” mask both become less than they could be and should be for their own health and society’s health.

Recently, I have begun doing advocacy work for sexual assault survivors who are incarcerated. So far, all but one of the people I have seen have been men, African-American, from poor backgrounds and limited education. We have failed these men in so many ways–economically, in terms of race equality, in terms of the education system.  All of those men have been struggling with a society that tells them that to be men, they must be aggressive, angry, strong and to defend their right to respect with physical violence. The toll on them is huge, as well as the toll to society. And all of them have a spark of beauty in them, in spite of what they have done, in spite of what they have been through. We owe it to our boys and our girls to create a world where these limiting ideas loosen their death-grip. I can see it in the eyes of the people I visit in jail. I can see it in the eyes of the women in our shelter.

I am not absolving people who are in jail of any personal responsibility.  But the more I see (and I am new to this) the more I am reminded that who we ARE is so strongly influenced by where we are from, what messages we receive as children, and what support we do or do not have.

Why People Don’t Report Rape

This is mostly just a reblog of a blog post by Sexologist on Tumblr.  The blog itself was posted to my personal Facebook wall by a friend who knows I work at a Rape Crisis Center and exploding-headit languished a few days without my seeing it, because… you know… Facebook.  (The way Facebook decides whether or not to notify about new posts is a subject for another blog and not one related to the subject matter of this one.)  Anyway, when I did read it, I found to my dismay that my brains had exploded all over the walls of my office.  It was quite a mess.  I am still cleaning up.

Because… HOLY MOLY did darned near EVERYBODY do EVERYTHING wrong.  Thankfully, toward the end, some Good Stuff ™ happened, mostly due to the Rape Crisis Advocate who eventually came out to the scene… but nearly every other component to this endurance-race of a report was horrible.  This is a great reminder of why we, who work at Rape Crisis Centers, need to be on top of our game not just most of the time, but ALL the time.

As a sanity check for myself and my agency, I’d like to say up front that our agency does quarterly police briefings with all three local police departments in order to increase police awareness of what we do and the role of sexual assault advocates.  We also have a system where at any time, day or night, not only do we have a volunteer (highly trained in our 65-hour training) advocate on call, but we have a staff back-up to step in if the advocate for some reason can’t respond to a call, and above that person is the head of our Rape Crisis Center, who could also go out on a call in a pinch.  (Although in all the 12 years I have been here, I don’t know of a time we’ve had to fall back to that response.)

So I would fervently LIKE to think that NOBODY who reported to our local PDs or to our agency would EVER have an experience like this.  But the truth is… systems can break down.  People can become tired, or cynical, or have an off-day.  But the fact of the matter is, we can’t afford that.  Not ever.  Because one off-day for us in this support web can equal a complete emotional disaster for someone who is already struggling with one of the hardest challenges of their lives.

Without further ado… here is the original blog.

I accompanied someone to the police station to report a sexual assault, and this is what happened

How Not to Write an Article About Sexual Assault (Inspiration Courtesy of Rolling Stone, Who Shows Us How It’s Done)

stop-victim-blaming1Last year, a girl named Audrie Pott, a fifteen year old Saratoga High School student, took her own life in the wake of a sexual assault by three boys that involved not only the assault itself at a party, but also photographs taken of her body, unconscious, after the boys had written degrading messages all over it.  This was a local tragedy that assumed national proportions, particularly coming as it did after several other similar cases had already hit the news.  The first was the Steubenville, Ohio rape of a  high school girl, incapacitated by alcohol, who was publicly and repeatedly sexually assaulted by her peers, several of whom documented the acts in social media. The victim was transported, undressed, photographed, and sexually assaulted. She was also penetrated vaginally by other students’ fingers, an act defined as rape under Ohio law.  The second was the suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons in Hallifax, Canada–the victim of an alleged gang rape and online bullying campaign that lasted months.

When I fell across a five-page article “Sexting, Shame and Suicide” in the September 26th 2013 issue of Rolling Stone about Audrie Pott, I was at first really excited to read it—I felt certain that an acclaimed magazine like Rolling Stone would present a thoughtful article talking about what had been done to Audrie, about sexism, rape culture… any number of related topics.  I thought, “What a horrible tragedy—but at least maybe some small good can come of the fact that it will help to ignite a national conversation about changing culture away from one that enables assaults like this to happen.”

Boy, was I wrong.

I knew I had to write a blog post about the article.  I’ve sat and stewed about it.  I wanted to make the perfect post.  I couldn’t.  So, finally, I am just writing my reactions and if I come off as angry and appalled, that’s because I am.  In fact, I am appalled enough that here and there I may use “language.”  You are forewarned.  Also, there is “language” used in the Rolling Stone article I am quoting as well.  Doubly-forewarned.

Also, one of the challenges inherent in this blog post is that to really UNDERSTAND what I am posting about, you have to read the Rolling Stone article. And it is on the long side.  But I know you can do it!  Here is another link to it:

http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/sexting-shame-and-suicide-20130917

Okay. Now, I am proceeding forward on the assumption you’ve read the article.  (You did, right?  Good…)  Because what I am going to do now is just call out sections of the article that set me back on my heels, made my eyes widen, and my blood pressure go up…and try to talk about WHY they caused those reactions.  Ready?  Here we go!

We will kick off with their introduction of Audrie, who they describe as:

A curvaceous sophomore at Saratoga High School, dressed in the cool-girl’s uniform of a low-cut top and supershort skirt, she looked the same as always, but inside she was quivering with humiliation.

If this were a male victim, would we phrase it, “A well-hung sophomore at Saratoga High School, dressed in the stud-guy’s uniform of rear-hugging jeans that showed his package, he looked the same as always, but inside he was quivering with humiliation”? Also, while we’re at it, “quivering with humiliation” is such a dime-store romance sort of phrase. “On the outside, she was cool and remote, but on the inside, she was quivering…”  Really?

Things keep going downhill from here.  Yes, this article seems to be trying to talk about a party sub-culture in schools and how it can be destructive, but what it really ends up doing is sexualizing a teen-aged girl in such a way that the conclusion seems to be, “Yes, she was sexually attacked, ridiculed and tormented, but considering how she acted and dressed, really what can you expect?”

 So, after starting with describing her sexual assets and dress, the article moves on to portraying her as a budding lush:

The summer before her death, Audrie had started to change, moving away from the kids she’d hung out with since middle school. She had started to drink a little and had dated a slightly older guy. When she drank, the self-consciousness that had afflicted her since junior high melted away. She loosened up. Sometimes, she loosened up a lot.

And we all know what happens to loose women.  Right?  So she drank and may have been with an older guy.  Which apparently makes it okay for her to be sexually assaulted by three unrelated young men and have derogatory things written on her body and photos of it passed around to public ridicule.

 Now the article decides to describe some of Audrie’s friends, and it can’t resist commenting on their physical virtues as well:

 Sara – 15, pretty, slim and blond – and Audrie had become close that summer and were exploring a new realm of boys, bottles and small parties, preferably at parent-free houses, that the Saratoga kids call “kickbacks.”

And we need to know that Sara is slim, pretty and blond…why? Interesting to note that nowhere in this article are there physical descriptions (or descriptions of any kind) concerning the boys.  Granted, they are minors and get some legal protection because of that, but it does still bring up the point of, “Why go describing all the girls in the first place?”

 Now we move on to the party at which Audrie was assaulted by the three young men.

 Eventually, 11 kids showed up, many of them to sip vodka and Gatorade cocktails. They all belonged to their class’s popular clique, the girls dressed as provocatively as possible, even by the loose standards of California high schools.

Here we are with the description of “loose” again.  What is interesting is how sexualized the prose is.  Loose can be “informal” but “loose” is also a term meaning a woman who sleeps around.  And again, we all know what happens to loose women.

The mixer of choice was Gatorade, or downed straight. Audrie drank hardest of all.

Which clearly means that whatever happened next, she brought it on herself because she chose to drink. Because if you drink and are female, you have no right to determine what happens to your body, and no right to be treated to basic respect.  Right?

Audrie was already stumbling and incoherent, taking shots and making out with different boys on the living-room couch.

Adding to the whole “slut-shaming” tone of this article.  This article reads like a cautionary tale  “See girls, if you dress like a slut and drink a lot, the inevitable conclusion will be that several teenaged boys will sexually assault you, draw degradingly on your body, the school as a whole will shame you, and you will have no choice but to end your pathetic, over-sexualized little life and later, a magazine will write about you and highlight everything about you it thinks is inappropriate.  Because really, you brought it on yourself.”

 Now the article talks about the actual assault:

Police interviews with the partyers pieced together what allegedly happened next. One of the boys Audrie made out with was so drunk he started crying and screaming. He threw up in the kitchen sink – into which someone had already tossed Audrie’s iPhone. Audrie was too blitzed to notice.

As far as I can tell, this detail about the iPhone only made it into the article for the “yuck” factor and to point out again that Audrie was really drunk.  (Although, she’s not the one who yakked on her phone so… the relevance sort of escapes me.  Moving on…)

Then three boys she’d known since middle school – Bill, Joe and Ron – and one of their friends, Mary, helped her upstairs into a bedroom (the names of these four have been changed because of the boys’ status in a juvenile case). Mary appears to have left the room when the boys started pulling off Audrie’s clothes and drawing on her with Sharpies. In interviews with police later, they admitted, to varying degrees, coloring half of her face black, then pulling down her bra, taking off her shorts and drawing scribbles, lines and circles on her breasts and nipples. Bill wrote “anal” above her ass with an arrow pointing down.

You know what is really interesting here is that this is the first time that “Bill”, “Joe” and “Ron” have shown up in the story and we’re about a third in.  Up until now, we’ve heard a lot about the way that Audrie dressed, the way she drank, the way she was making out with others.  We’ve not heard a thing about what they were wearing, drinking, or how they were acting.  By making this article all about Audrie and her possible foibles, it puts the burden of what happened that night squarely on her, when they are the ones who committed the assaulting and battery, (child) pornography and other crimes.

At some point, Mary returned to find Audrie in her underwear and put a blanket over her, then left the room again. With Audrie still sprawled out on the bed and unresponsive, the boys allegedly fingered her and took pictures on their phones.

So now we have the actual sexual assault. Classy, right?  Never in this article is the question addressed directly of what the boys thought they were doing, whether they thought it was right or wrong, or how we socialize boys that leads to situations like this seeming “okay” in their point of view.  No, we keep hammering on Audrie and clothing choices, appearance, and party-going ways instead. 

 Now we’re at the next day:

Back in her room, Audrie wasn’t so nonchalant. She was engaged in a frantic attempt to discover what had happened to her body.

By putting this in the passive form, it seems like something that magically “happened” to her body.  It would read differently and more accurately if it said, “She was engaged in a frantic attempt to discover who had assaulted and defaced her body.”

Audrie wrote that the “whole school knows. . . . Do you know how people view me now? I fucked up and I can’t do anything to fix it. . . . One of my best friends hates me. And I now have a reputation I can never get rid of.”

Writing to another boy on Facebook, she said, “My life is over. . . . I ruined my life and I don’t even remember how.”

The tragedy here is that her big “fuck-up” here was underage drinking—which everybody at the party was doing, apparently, and allegedly making out with various people, which one can also presume others at the party did.  She said her life was over—horribly prophetic—and that she ruined her life.  Guess what?

 SHE WASN’T THE ONE WHO RUINED HER LIFE.

Three boys ruined her life by thinking that it would be funny to sexually assault her when she was unable to defend herself, to scrawl graffiti on her like she was a bathroom wall, and to take photographs and share them around.  It is doubly shameful that a prestigious magazine like Rolling Stone then decided to–by implication–lay the blame on her after her death by centering an entire extensive article about her life and death on how her behavior and appearance apparently invited this behavior in others.  Wrong.  Wrong.  WRONG.

 Okay, take a deep breath.

 By about page three, things get momentarily a little less heinous in the reporting department.  The article takes some time to talk about some other high profile recent cases of teen gang rapes/sexual abuse and suicides, the discusses sexual assault statistics.  Then the article reports:

Rape stats may be no higher than in years past, but the numbers are as shocking as ever. Every two minutes, a sexual assault happens in the U.S., and nearly 50 percent of the victims are under the age of 18, according to Katherine Hull, a spokeswoman for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network: “The demographic of high school- and college-age women is at highest risk for sexual assault.” More than half of the incidents go unreported, advocates say […]

Yeah.  And maybe one of the reasons more than half the incidents go unreported is that when the incident IS reported, the victim can look forward to reactions similar to the writing in this article—“Oh, look how much she was drinking.  Oh, look how tight her clothing is and how short her skirt was.  Oh, look at her dreadful judgment and all the things she did wrong…”

The dreadful judgment that really matters—the decisions by her attackers to molest, rape or assault her—take second fiddle to the self-righteous tongue clucking of people who shake their heads over young girls these days and their behavior.

 Now, do I think that we need to have a talk about under-age drinking?  Sure.  A talk about clothing standards… er, possibly.  But should those discussions essentially TAKE THE PLACE OF talking about how a human being (in this case three of them) decided to sexually assault, scribble on the body of, take photographs of and share around said photographs of another human being whose only crime was to be participating in a party?  I don’t think so.

 Then the article takes on way that the photos of Audrie’s assault were shared around.  It says:

“It’s a perfect storm of technology and hormones,” says lawyer Lori Andrews, director of the Institute for Science, Law and Technology in Chicago. “Teen sexting is all a way of magnifying girls’ fantasies of being a star of their own movies, and boys locked in a room bragging about sexual conquest.”

Um… okay, whatever, Lori.  Maybe.  But in this case, AUDRIE’S PHOTOS WERE SENT WITHOUT HER KNOWLEDGE OR APPROVAL.  A “fantasy of being a star in her own movies” doesn’t even come into play here, so why the heck was this quotation even included?  It implies again that somehow Audrie was this sexed-up little budding-alcoholic tart who secretly would have loved to have nude photos of her passed around, when in fact, having photos of her passed around (after a sexual assault) contributed to her SUICIDE.

 So, now Rolling Stone earnestly attempts to discuss What To Do About All This:

Prosecutors all over the nation are facing the same social and legal quandary: How do you protect young women from not just sexual assault but the magnification of those assaults via the Internet? How much punishment can they mete out to boys, who in many cases are only a year or two removed from childhood, who seem to think they are committing pranks with phones and passed-out girls, and for whom the ultimate charge – rape – means the end of their lives before they start? Finally, how do you instill in impulse-driven teens of both sexes the knowledge that whatever they record on their phones and send can reach the entire world and stay public forever?

Okay, some real concerns are raised—valid ones.  No problem with that.  Except… waaaait…

 How do you protect young women from not just sexual assault but the magnification of those assaults via the Internet?

Here’s a nice place to start—just a thought.  Maybe we could protect young women from a culture that automatically links any sexual assault they suffer to what THEY drank, what THEY wore, what THEIR reputation was, rather than linking the assault to what their ATTACKER did?  And maybe we could protect them from big-name magazines who victim-blame them in their articles, thus “magnifying those assaults via the Internet”?

 How much punishment can they mete out to boys, who in many cases are only a year or two removed from childhood, who seem to think they are committing pranks with phones and passed-out girls, and for whom the ultimate charge – rape – means the end of their lives before they start?

Huh… interestingly enough, I’d say that maybe if the media and the culture PUT THE BLAME WHERE IT BELONGS… on the decisions of the attackers… that would (again) be a good start.  Is there more to this situation than just that?  Sure.  Am I saying that is the only element of a solution?  Of course not.  But the fact that an article out of a major magazine, theoretically trying to get to the bottom of a crime story, makes the whole emphasis about the foibles of the victim rather than about the crimes of the attackers sorta makes my point for me.

Okay, I’m basically disgusted enough by this article now to be nearing the end of my unusually long blog post.  I’d like to leave you with the thought that we are now only on page 3 of this 5 page article and right after talking about statistics and fretting about Why All This Is Happening, Rolling Stone leaps right back into the article with a discussion of Audrie Pott’s breast size.

No.  Really.

By the time she was 13, she’d sprouted 34DD breasts.

Yeah.  Because we really needed to know the exact size of a minor’s breasts after she is dead.

Then it finally talks a bit about the 3 boys who allegedly committed the assault and other crimes.  We’ve had three pages now, primarily discussing Audrie’s looks and behavior.  What do we get on the boys?

 According to Audrie’s friends, one of the three boys eventually arrested for the assault, Joe, was a leader of the teasing pack in middle school and especially sadistic. “He would pick one person to make fun of for a few weeks, then move on to another,” Amanda says. Bill had a reputation as a troublemaker, while Ron was more of a “sweet” guy.

Yeah.  That’s it.  That’s basically as deep as it goes.  Because who cares about the behaviors or motivations or socializations or past history of the alleged perpetrators… because they’re just the people who committed the crime, right?  (Yes, yes, I know… they are juveniles, blah blah.  But seriously, this is all that is said?  This is the extent of the journalistic digging?)

 Attorneys representing the boys have claimed that their clients had nothing to do with Audrie’s suicide and work to portray Audrie as a desperate, troubled young woman.

Ya mean, kind of the way this article does? And, after all… think of the futures of these poor boys.

 It’s a sentiment shared by many parents around town. “These boys are not bad boys!” says the mother of a friend of one of the boys at the party. “They are goofy and silly. If there is a sleepover, one of the boys might put whipped cream on someone’s hand. They are not malicious, mean criminals. This is costing their families thousands and thousands of dollars, and we are not all rich.”

Maybe as a society we should be raising boys whose idea of silly IS whipped cream on someone’s hand and not sexually fingering and assaulting an unconscious girl, writing and scribbling all over her body, and then sharing those images amongst friends.  Because, you know, there IS a difference.  A basic level of human empathy, for one thing.  And that’s something we as a society are not doing a great job of teaching.

In conclusion, some final quotes:

In response to Audrie’s death and the arrests, Saratoga’s teachers opened discussions with students about the case that had fractured the affluent suburban veneer of the high school. “In every single class, somebody raised their hand and said, ‘Well, wasn’t she drunk?’” says Hayes. “And ‘I thought she was drunk.’ And ‘She made out with two boys.’ ‘She was drunk and I’m sure she liked it.’”

It is tragic that the teens in the classes had, as their first thoughts, the ways in which they believed the blame rested with Audrie.  We can shake our heads over that all we like.  But Rolling Stone, by implication, has basically said all the same things by concentrating on what she did, what she wore, what her breast size was, and who she may or may not have made out with.  Congratulations, Rolling Stone.  You have showed all the maturity and empathy of those kids.  Except they’re KIDS.  They learn how to be adults by what we, as a society, teach them by example.

 YOU, Rolling Stone, are a powerful media voice in society.  And you should damn well know better.

I’m glad that non-profits like the Tri-Valley Haven and other domestic violence and rape crisis centers around the State and nation work all the time to do healthy dating relationship and anti-date rape classes in local junior high and high schools.  I am proud that we do bystander intervention trainings and the hard, day-to-day work of trying to change society to make acts like this unacceptable.  Because, quite clearly, things right now are broken.  Become involved.  Be an active bystander.  Let your voice be heard.  Support the people doing the work and let’s make this world a better place for our kids.

Before we lose another.

Tri-Valley Haven’s Back to School Drive is a Big Success

Tri-Valley Haven gave away backpacks and school supplies to about 400 local students in need on Tuesday, August 13th at their Food Pantry (located at 418 Junction Avenue in Livermore).

Back to School Event Volunteers

“With so many families still struggling to keep food on their table, it is no surprise that many parents don’t have the money to purchase school supplies for their children,” says Samantha Burrows, Director of Homeless and Family Support Programs, who oversees the Haven’s Pantry as well as the Back to School Drive. The impact of the recession is still evident by the numbers served at the Haven’s Food Pantry. The pantry served over 5, 500 individuals from Livermore, Dublin, Pleasanton and Sunol last year alone.

Back to School Event Staff

New backpacks and school supplies help enable children in need to return to school with dignity.

Tri-Valley Haven thanks its staff and volunteers for their great work on this annual program. The Haven particularly appreciates the generous community donations which make this program possible!

Bystander Intervention – She’s Doing It Right (You Go, Shelby!)

I just wanted to cross-post a selection from a blog of one of our great advocate volunteers, Shelby Henry.  She has graciously allowed us to reference her blog from time to time, and a few days ago, I came across this amazing story.  Shelby, you are an amazing woman and thank you for the story.  You illustrate what it means to be an active bystander not only in your advocacy work but even in your day-to-day life. :)  (Oh, and the emphasis in the post is mine, not Shelby’s, but I could not resist highlighting it.  Hey, this is a work blog, after all!)

Shelby Henry is an advocate at Tri-Valley Haven, a passionate blogger, a dolphin rights activist, and an all-around amazing person!

Shelby Henry is an advocate at Tri-Valley Haven, a passionate blogger, a dolphin rights activist, and an all-around amazing person!

Yesterday I witnessed a man assaulting a woman, in broad daylight and on a busy street. When I drove by I only saw for maybe a second what was going on and I think that my brain tried to convince me it wasn’t what it looked like. They were probably messing around. It’s 11 AM, you would have to be insane to attack a woman in broad daylight on this busy street with all these cars driving by. I kept driving. I made it about two streets further before I finally decided it was worth at least turning around just to ease my mind and confirm that the woman was alright and nothing was going on. The woman was not alright and the man had in fact been attacking her. He was grabbing her by the hair as she tried unsuccessfully to swat him away. I turned my car in his direction and floored it. I screeched to a stop right before ramming into the sidewalk and started revving my engine at him, honking my horn, and screaming that the cops were on their way (he was probably really intimidated until he heard Etta James playing through my open car window…). The woman got away and took off, barefoot and in pajamas. The police arrived within just a couple of minutes and handled the situation.

I was horrified to think that I had almost continued about my day without going back to verify what was going on. If you’ve taken a basic psychology or sociology class you’ve probably heard of a phenomenon called the bystander effect. Basically it is when bystanders witness a crime or emergency and do nothing, either out of fear or because they think someone else will call authorities. I think that five months ago, before my training with the Tri-Valley Haven, I would have kept driving. I would have convinced myself it was nothing and that I was just crazy.

Sometimes I think people worry that they will report something incorrectly or that it won’t be worth the officer’s time to check something out. What we don’t realize is that the police are here to serve us and to protect us; it is their duty and it is what they get up everyday to do. I think that as citizens it should be our own duty to look out for each other and keep our towns as safe as possible. We have a responsibility to help police maintain city safety, as they are unable to be everywhere at all times. If you see something that catches your eye and it doesn’t seem right, call the non-emergency number in your city. Err on the side of caution, because it is always better to be safe than sorry.

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