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The Tri-Valley’s Holiday Season

holy-cross-donation-1Every year, Tri-Valley Haven helps local families in economic need through our Holiday Program. Families from Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin, and Sunol “shop” for gifts for their loved ones. The program is festive and inviting. Volunteers help parents select free gifts. Families receive food and a gift card for a turkey, ham, or tofu. Tri-Valley Haven’s Program encourages families to develop their own holiday traditions. Our annual holiday program fosters independence and empowers families who have been affected by poverty, domestic violence or sexual assault.
This year Tri-Valley Haven provided food and gifts to over 3,200 individuals in the Tri-Valley region! This could not have happened without the generous support from community members, churches, and local businesses.

Tri-Valley Haven appreciates: Asbury Methodist Church; the Fremont Bank Foundation; the Safeway Foundation; the Livermore Pleasanton Fire Department (Toys for Tots Program); DeSilva Gates Construction; Saint Joan of Arc; the Bay Area News Group (Share the Spirit); Lawrence Livermore Lab Employees; National Charity League; Blackhawk Network; Livermore Downtown Association; First Presbyterian Church in Livermore; Congregation Beth Emek; All State Insurance; Clorox; Tri-Valley NonProfit Alliance, Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center; Pleasanton Newcomers; Saint Charles Church; Foothill High School; Stanford ValleyCare; Comcast; Livermore Mom’s Club; and the many, amazing individuals who made the holiday’s brighter for someone else by donating!

We are grateful to our Tri-Valley community. Together, we can create communities free from abuse and poverty.

Happy New Year! Thank you for your support!



Christine is the Director of Sexual Assault Services & Counseling at Tri-Valley Haven.  For more information about how you can support our life-saving services for survivors and families, please call our office at (925) 449-5845 or visit http://www.trivalleyhaven.org

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!

Writing to Explore, to Connect, to Grow…

Blog Written By: Peggy Messerschmidt

“Writing itself is one of the great, free human activities. There is scope for individuality and elation and discovery…. Writing back and forth between experience and thought, writers have more than space and time can offer. They have the whole unexplored realm of human vision.” (William Stafford — Writing the Australian Crawl)

How many of you loved to write at some point in your lives? Maybe when you first learned to make letters on those pale green lines with the broken line centers? Or when you wrote your first story or poem in grammar school? But maybe, somewhere along the way, writing became less fun, more prescriptive. Maybe you had to go from writing stories or feelings in a journal to writing five-paragaph essays with thesis statements and topic sentences and even with only a certain number of sentences per paragraph. Not much freedom there. Then, writing became something you had to do for school, something you stayed up late at night for and fretted over. It went from being the “great free human activity” that Stafford talks about in his book, Writing the Australian Crawl to something mundane or burdensome or even a source of shame and embarrassment.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, writing is our birthright as humans. Discovering ourselves through writing and other forms of art, listening to our own creative impulses is our birthright. We can ALL do it. Children do it. Children of three can write amazing poems with metaphors about clouds in the sky becoming mashed potatoes.

Contrary to popular belief, writing can be fun. It can be a way of connecting to ourselves, of going more deeply in our lives, of listening to ourselves and figuring out what we think and feel, of challenging our conditioning and/or of expressing our truth both to ourselves and others. We can write just for ourselves in journals, stories, poems, or we can let others in on our thoughts and feelings by sharing our writing. In either case, we can write to become more whole and to heal our deepest wounding.

This blog starts a series in which we will explore how to use writing for fun, exploration, self-knowing, and healing. I am not talking formal writing here. Not the kind you had to do in school or the kind one learns in a creative writing classes where poems have to have some formal meter. This is for you, to do with what you want. To let yourself explore, for writing is heuristic. It is about discover, about COMING to Know, not knowing at the start.

As Peter Elbow explains in his book, Writing Without Teachers, writing can be compared to growing and cooking. It is organic. We find out what we think and feel. We don’t start out that way. And like any creative endeavor, curiosity and the willingness to Not Know are the keys. And kindness — towards yourself and what you write. Think of your pieces as your children. You would not scold them because their sentences didn’t all make logical sense or their pronouns didn’t agree. Writing is always a process and we are too. Our lives are We start where we are and we keep going.

Since this blog is associated with Tri Valley Haven, it will also cover ways writing can be used or helpful in clinical or shelter settings. For instance, residents at Shiloh recently have done some writing in their DV group, that have ranged from writing poems in which they used some aspect of nature as a metaphor for themselves and explored how they were like the sun, fire, water, etc. to writing about their names and what names they would give themselves and exploring themselves through creatvely elaborating on their own initials. In addition, this blog will cover topics like biblio and poetry therapy, journaling for the self, various invention strategies, how the nature of image and figurative language can help us express our feelings in non-literal ways, and how poetry can heal. Since learning equals practice (and fun), I will also give you lots of prompts and other writing ideas so you can explore on your own and start your own writing/healing/discovery process.

I suggest you get a journal, not necessarily a fancy one but some lined paper, the cheap ones you can get at Target or Walmart and some fast writing pens. I like the Pilot Precise V Rolling Ball as they write quickly. And I get cheap journals at stores like Ross, Marshals, TJ Max. You can write on anything, even your computer, but if you the last, I suggest turning off the screen so you can just free write and not be tempted to look back and edit. More suggestions later.

I want to end this first blog by asking two what ifs:

What if we could all be amateurs in this endeavor called writing and discovery? As Julia Cameron points out in The Right to Write, the word “amateur” comes from the Latin “Amare” which means to love. What if we just wrote or did any creative act from the standpoint of love? Operating from the ground of love, both for ourselves and for what we might create?

What if like Shunryu Suzuki suggests in Zen Mind, Begginer’s Mind, we could write “with full attention” as if we were discoverng what we wanted to say for the first time (and often we are if we truly engage in the process)? As Suzuki states:
“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the experts there are few. …The beginner’s mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless”

About the Blogger: Peggy Messerschmidt is currently a MFT Intern at Tri-Valley Haven where she counsels individual clients and facilitates two DV groups. In her other life, she teaches creative and expository writing at the college level and was a FT instructor at Mission College for 22 years. She also has taught at Chabot, SFSU, and Ohlone. She is a poet/writer and has published in a number of poetry journals. Her poems also appear in Quarter Sky, a chapbook of poems. She is a trained “Journal To the Self” instructor and has been interested in the role of writing and poetry in the healing process for many years. You can reach her at TVH, 667-2722.

What Happened in Steubenville is Happening Here

The pictures of the rape of a young girl in Steubenville, Ohio are tragic. A young, unconscious girl dragged around a “party” and then raped by her classmates. Meanwhile, girls at the party laughed and took pictures of the victim which they posted to social media with tags like “so raped”. No one intervened to help the victim or called the police. We cannot mislead ourselves, what happened in Steubenville is happening in the Tri-Valley and in every city, suburb, and small town. Usually these rapes are never reported and they never receive the kind of national media attention that the Steubenville case did.

The United States Center for Disease Control tells us that 1 in 4 women in her lifetime will be a victim of sexual assault, 1 in 4! Another fact, 1 in 9 men will be a victim of sexual abuse in his lifetime! Rape and sexual assault are extremely underreported crimes. Males are even less likely to report than females. There are many reasons why victims do not report. After this Steubenville rape case was prosecuted, many in the media focused on the perpetrators, popular football players in the small town, and how this case may affect them. The victim didn’t receive much support at all after enduring this invasive, traumatizing and dehumanizing crime.

What can be done to decrease teenage sexual assaults?

Education. Bystander Education, also called Upstander Education, is now being taught with success by many rape crisis centers including Tri-Valley Haven. Upstander Education teaches teens, and adults, to stand up safely if they witness sexual assault or violence (for example, call 911 anonymously). We need to teach all of our young people in middle and high school about sexual violence, consent, and expose the truth about sexual assault. For instance, the most at risk age group for sexual assaults are teenagers, specifically 16 – 19 year olds. Most rapes occur by someone the person knows, not by a stranger. No-one deserves to be raped. Women often even put the fault on the victim because it makes them feel safer. We all want to believe the world is fundamentally safe. People blame victims by saying things like, “it was her fault because she should have been more careful” or “she shouldn’t have been drinking” or “she shouldn’t have worn that”. They reason that they won’t do those specific things in that specific way, so they won’t be raped. Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault. If teenagers understood this, they may show more empathy and stand together against sexual violence. If a girl wears a short skirt, she is not asking to be raped. If a teenager drinks beer she does not deserve to be raped.

We also need to hold perpetrators criminally accountable. We need to send a strong message that sexual assault will not be tolerated in our society. Rape is about power and control, not uncontrollable sexual desires. Perpetrators think they have the “right” to take someone’s most intimate choice about their body away from them. Our culture needs to make it clear; No one has the right to sexual assault and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent.

Tri-Valley Haven offers rape prevention education, including Upstander Education, and healthy relationship classes for free to Tri-Valley middle and high school classes. We currently have funding for only one person to do this work part-time. Sexual assault prevention needs to be a top local and national funding priority. We owe it to our kids, and to their kids.

To My Fellow Survivors

Your Story MattersThe following letter, To My Fellow Survivors, was written by an amazing survivor who recently participated in a support group at Tri-Valley Haven. We are so grateful she has given us permission to publish this:

My rape happened over ten years ago and for ten years, I thought I was fine. I told myself to suck it up, that it was not as bad as some other stories that I had heard, that I was being selfish and to not let it affect me, that I deserved it because I was not good enough.  These thoughts replayed in my mind over and over again.  They became deep-rooted in my soul.  I went through these ten years making bad choice after bad choice—from an eating disorder to self-injury, promiscuity, stealing, lying, anger, and depression, you name it.  I thought there was something wrong with me as to why I could just not be happy.  Why was I making these unhealthy choices?  I knew that I had all this anger built up inside me, but I thought that I had dealt with this part of my past, so when my therapist mentioned that she wanted me to go to a support group, I was very hesitant to say the least.  I was willing to try anything, though, because I was at my breaking point.  I made the call.  I thought, even if I do not like it, I can get out of work early on Fridays.

               I was really nervous my first class.  I did not want to talk to these people that I had never met about something so personal; plus, I do not trust anyone.  The more you let people in, the more they can use that against you.  I had learned this too many times.  I went week after week, did my homework and opened up as much as I could.  We then received an assignment to create a collage of how we felt at the time of the rape, and how we wanted to feel as a survivor.  I was not a fan of this.  I felt it was stupid, childish, and a waste of my time, but I was going to do it and prove myself right.

I clipped out a pile of sayings in magazines that jumped out at me, not knowing which side I would put them on.  Once I completed that task, I just started to glue them on.  I felt nothing, no emotion, like this was just a school project for a grade.  After I was done, I looked at my board and was astonished.  My “bad side” truly represented that horrible night—the pain, the horror, the sadness and the depression—everything I felt then and at that moment ten years later.  It hit me.  Somehow, looking at those words that were lost within me made it actually real.  I finally felt something other than anger.  I felt sadness for the girl I was, the girl that I would never be again, the girl that lost a piece of herself that night.

I then turned the board over and looked at my “survivor side.”  I started crying.  Is this really what I am supposed to feel like as a woman, as a survivor?  Proud, Strong, Courageous.  Even if I could not be or feel all of the things I had glued on that board, the possibility of being a little free from this pain and darkness is what I wanted.  This was probably one of my first, “AH HA” moments.  I think after this project is when I started to open up a little more to the other women in the group.

Then the teacher told us that the next assignment was going to be writing our story.  “Um, WHAT?  Not going to happen.”  What could possibly come out of doing this?  I was very skeptical. I know what happened to me.  Why do I need to write it out?

Needless to say, I sucked it up and started writing.  As I wrote, I again felt nothing.  It was like I was writing someone else’s story.  This is stupid, I told myself.  I had gone through years, telling the same version of my story—the bare minimum with friends and family who were concerned.  Wasn’t that enough?  It wasn’t until I actually started writing details of what he did to me that I started to feel sadness and anger.  I finally sat there and realized fully what had happened, what he did, what he said, what he made me do.  I remembered things that I had forgotten about, things that I think my mind made me forget until I was ready to process them.  I did not think it would be ten years later, but I know now that I wasn’t ready then.

I then had to find a safe person to read this to.  That was the scariest part.  I had never confided in anyone about the gory details. I kept those parts locked away inside me for so long.  No one knew the shame I felt, the guilt I placed on myself for not fighting back, for freezing, for letting someone do this to me, but writing my story and reading it to my counselor proved something to me that day.  It proved that I said, “No” numerous times; it proved that I did what I had to do to Survive.  As hard as this was to swallow, it did give me a little bit of peace.  I was able to forgive myself.  It made me open up to the women in the group, to care about them.  It was amazing to actually be somewhere I could just be myself and know that I would not be judged, to actually be surrounded with people that knew the pain I felt.  I had felt alone for so long.

As this course is coming to an end, I am confused with how I feel. I am happy that I was allowed this time to really look inside me and face some of my demons, but I am saddened to part ways with these women that I feel truly understand me.  I still have a lot of work ahead of me.  Am I fully healed?  I do not think I will ever be, but understanding who I am makes it a little easier.

As you read this, I want you to know that this will be hard.  I will not sugar-coat this process.  Will you want to quit?  Probably, but some of the hardest things in life have the greatest reward, and growing as a person is one of those rewards.  Just remember, you are strong, you are courageous, you are worthy, you are loved, and YOU ARE A SURVIVOR!!!

Pleasanton Director Goes Back to Las Positas College, Her Alma Mater, and Helps Women Fleeing Abuse

VaginaMonologuesT-Shirt 2013Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues is an epic play about the female experience so when Tri-Valley Haven asked local Director Eleisa (Lisa) Cambra to head up the show, she did not hesitate to say yes. Eleisa has directed the monologues before for Tri-Valley Haven and always donates her time. This year’s production is exceptionally special for Ms. Cambra, as the performances will be held at Las Positas College’s Mertes Center for the Arts, Eleisa’s Alma Mater. Years ago, Eleisa attended the Theater Arts Department at Las Positas and she has since worked in numerous theater productions throughout the Tri-Valley. “I owe a lot to The Las Positas Theater Department. They gave me the confidence and experience to be successful in the real world”, affirms Ms. Cambra.

One of Eleisa’s greatest mentors is Wendy Wisely, her Theater Instructor when Lisa attended Las Positas College. “Wendy showed me everything I need to know about the theater. She is a remarkable director, and actress! I was so glad that Wendy agreed to act in this production of The Vagina Monologues.”

For tickets to The Vagina Monologues, directed by Eleisa Cambra and featuring Wendy Wisely, March 1st and 2nd at 8 pm, please go to: Http://vaginamonologues.brownpapertickets.com . Proceeds go to Tri-Valley Haven’s domestic violence and sexual assault programs to serve victims and to end violence.

VAWA Vote Delayed – What Can I Do?

On Thursday, February 7th, the reauthorization vote on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) S. 47, a bi-partisan bill, was delayed in the Senate. A vote is expected early next week – probably late Monday, February 11th.

The Violence Against Women Act is vital federal legislation that provides funding and protections for victims of domestic and sexual violence. VAWA was first authorized in 1994, but was not reauthorized in 2012 because some republicans opposed the bill’s protections for LGBTQ and Native American victims and immigrant victims of domestic violence seeking Visas.

Yesterday, the Senate did reject a Republican alternative to S. 47. The alternative bill would have stripped protections for LGBTQ victims of domestic violence, removed a provision for Native American women, and shifted the focus of VAWA way from women and toward men.

What Can I Do?

We urge you to call your Senators on Monday, February 11th, and ask them to vote for S.47, a strong bipartisan bill that would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, and vote NO on any further amendments that weaken VAWA’s protections.

You can call the Capitol switchboard at (202)224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Senators.

Please thank the Senators already co-sponsoring S. 47:

Senators Ayotte, Kelly (R-NH), Baldwin, Tammy (D–WI), Baucus, Max (D-MT) , Begich, Mark (D-AK), Bennet, Michael (D-CO), Blumenthal, Richard (D-CT), Boxer, Barbara (D-CA), Brown, Sherrod (D-OH), Cantwell, Maria (D-WA), Cardin, Benjamin (D-MD), Carper, Thomas (D-DE) Casey, Robert (D–PA), Collins, Susan (R-ME), Coons, Chris (D-DE), Cowan, Mo (D- MA), Crapo, Mike (R-ID), Donnelly, Joe (D-IN) Durbin, Richard (D-IL), Feinstein, Dianne (D-CA), Franken, Al (D-MN), Gillibrand, Kirsten (D-NY), Hagan, Kay (D-NC), Harkin, Tom (D-IA), Heinrich, Martin (D-NM), Heitkamp, Heidi (D–ND), Heller, Dean (R-NV), Hirono, Mazie (D-HI), Johnson, Tim (D – SD), Kaine, Tim (D-VA) King, Angus (I-ME), Kirk, Mark (R-IL), Klobuchar, Amy (D-MN), Landrieu, Mary (D-LA), Lautenberg, Frank R. (D-NJ) Leahy, Patrick (D-VT), Levin, Carl (D-MI) McCaskill, Claire (D-MO), Manchin, Joe (D-WV) ,Menendez, Robert (D-NJ), Merkley, Jeff (D-OR), Mikulski, Barbara (D-MD), Moran, Jerry (R-KS), Murkowski, Lisa (R-AK), Murphy, Christopher (D-CT) Murray, Patty (D-WA), Nelson, Bill (D-FL) Pryor, Mark (D-AR), Reed, Jack (D-RI), Reid, Harry (D-NV), Rockefeller, John D (D-WV), Sanders, Bernard (I-VT), Schatz, Brian (D-HI) Schumer, Charles (D-NY), Shaheen, Jeanne (D-NH), Stabenow, Debbie (D-MI), Tester, Jon (D-MT), Udall, Mark (D-CO), Udall, Tom (D-NM), Warner, Mark (D-VA), Warren, Elizabeth (D-MA), Whitehouse, Sheldon (D-RI), Wyden, Ron (D-OR).

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