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    Jessie - Sexual Assault Advocate
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Changing the Culture: How Do We Prevent Dating Violence and Sexual Assault?

HLogo 302x270ow do we prevent dating violence and sexual assault?

While there is no easy, one-size-fits-all answer to this question, Tri-Valley Haven offers a dedicated Prevention Education Program for teens. We hope that by educating local youth about dating violence prevention, we can prevent domestic violence in future generations.

As the lead Preventionist, I visit local schools with a dedicated team of volunteers to educate teens about healthy relationships, dating abuse and bullying prevention, and bystander intervention  year-round. We offer classroom presentations, lunchtime school events,  parent workshops and staff training through the program.

In our classroom presentations, we help students focus on healthy relationships, personal boundaries, assertive communication and safe and effective bystander intervention strategies. We approach all of these topics in age-appropriate way and tailor each presentation to fit the school because know each school community is unique.

How can you support our prevention efforts?

  • Request a presentation. If you work with a group of teens, consider scheduling a presentation for your club, after-school program, religious youth group or community group! Contact our Preventionists at (925) 667-2727 or visit www.trivalleyhaven.org
  • Donate to our Prevention Education Program. We currently provide presentations to local Tri-Valley area high schools and Livermore middle schools. Next year we hope to expand our program to include all Tri-Valley area middle schools. You can make this possible by donating to our prevention efforts.
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Tri-Valley Haven’s heart pledges at Dublin High School last year.


3a92488In addition to providing advocacy for survivors of sexual assault, Jessie is the lead Preventionist for our Prevention Education Program at Tri-Valley Haven. Learn more about our teen presentations our Teen page on our website.

Teen Dating Violence Awareness at Dublin High School

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, so Tri-Valley Haven headed out to Dublin High School to spread awareness last week. Together the Haven joined Mrs. Slavec and the Be Strong Girls Group to educate teens about dating violence. Students pledged to engage in healthy relationships and received information about dating abuse and the Be Strong Girls Group.

Be Strong is an empowerment group for girls in high school. Tri-Valley Haven facilitates monthly group meetings and provide a open, safe space for the girls to discuss different topics related to gender, self-esteem and leadership. For our Teen Dating Violence Awareness event, each girl was responsible for organizing a part of the event. They also played a vital role in spreading the word about the event ahead of time and encouraging their classmates to participate.

When we hear discussions about dating violence, they often focus on adults who have been in abusive relationship. However 1 in 3 teens in the U.S. has experienced physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse by a dating partner.

Dublin HS BeStrong Teen Dating Awareness Month Event 111This is why Tri-Valley Haven is dedicated to educating teens about healthy relationships and the warning signs of abuse. We provide a safe space for teens to discuss what they see happening at their school and how they can keep themselves safe – emotionally and physically.

Thanks to Mrs. Slavec and our Be Strong Girls Group, our Tri-Valley Haven Teen Dating Violence Awareness Event was a success! It was inspiring to witness the Be Strong girls educating their classmates about this issue. After the event, we displayed the pledges on the doors and windows of the school library as part of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

Talking to Teens about Dating Violence and Bullying in Pleasanton High Schools

“10/10! Would do it again!”

“It was very helpful, especially since this is becoming more common.”

“We haven’t learned much about this yet, so it was great to learn about it!”

“I liked how the presenters were open and not scared to talk about anything.”

“I really thought this inspired me to take action because I noticed some random person online for being called a “b—–” for so-called bullying that they didn’t even do. I feel like standing up that person [who is being cyberbullied] now, as it wasn’t their fault.”

“I felt that Tri-Valley Haven is there for me.”

These are some of the comments we received from ninth-graders after our Healthy Relationships and Bullying Prevention presentations at Foothill High School and Amador High School in Pleasanton this semester.

During the school year, I visit local middle schools and high schools to talk to teens about healthy relationships, teen dating violence and bullying in an age-appropriate way. At the end of each presentation, I hand out surveys to see how effective our presentations are and get anonymous feedback from the students.

Recently we lost all federal and state funding for our youth education programs due to a cut in California funding. As a result, we’ve had to trim many of our presentations down from 2-day classes to 1-day condensed classes in Livermore and Dublin schools. Fortunately, the Pleasanton Youth Commission has continued to fund our Prevention Education program. Thanks to their generosity, we are able to continue providing 2-day presentations to health classes at Pleasanton schools.

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During our full 2-day presentations, we have the opportunity to do more activities with the students to talk about these topics. One of our most popular activities is called “What Would You Do?” During this activity, we read out different scenarios about dating violence or bullying. Then we ask students move to different corners of the room depending on whether they would do nothing (no intervention), step in on their own (primary intervention) or get help (secondary intervention). After each scenario, students get a chance to share what they might do.

Wow, does this activity get teens talking!

Whether we’re talking about dating violence or bullying, each student brings their own unique perspective into the conversation. Sometimes students disagree with their classmates’ suggestions for intervention; other times the entire class ends up standing in the same corner of the room. Many of the classes I visited at Foothill High and Amador High had a lot to say during this activity.

In one class, I asked students what they might do if they witnessed a guy violently shove a girl to the ground on their way to class. Many of the guys in the class said they would step in and confront the guy. In contrast, several of the girls said they would feel more comfortable getting help from a trusted adult or friend. A few of these girls mentioned that they would be afraid of getting hurt if they tried to confront a male student.

Then I told students to imagine the same scenario with one detail changed: “What would you do if you saw a girl shove a guy to the ground?”

Almost every girl said they would feel comfortable talking to the abusive student (in this scenario, another girl) by themselves. However nearly all of the guys said they would be hesitant to intervene. When I asked why, many of them said they wouldn’t know what to say or do in this situation. One student even admitted, “I’ve never heard of this happening to guys.”

This sparked a discussion between the students about assumptions or expectations we might have about who can or cannot be a victim of violence. Many of the students have been encouraged to take a stand against bullying in the past. But often our presentations are the first time students have had the chance to discuss what intervening might actually entail. As presenters, we encourage students to think of intervening indirectly, such as asking for help from a teacher or friend, as well as being assertive.

One of the handouts students fill out before we start our presentations. (via Instagram)

During the conversation, one of the guys mentioned that he would be worried about embarrassing the victim (another guy) if he told the abusive student to stop. So we discussed other ways he might intervene, such as getting help from a teacher so he didn’t have to directly intervene or checking in with the male student in private after the incident.

One of the girls who felt comfortable intervening even suggested, “You could ask one of us for help.”

Isn’t it amazing how one scenario can prompt so many different opinions? Many of the other classes had similar discussions about this particular scenario. As I tell the students, there is no “right” answer when we do this activity. There are many ways students can safely intervene when they see dating violence or bullying happen at their school.

It’s just a matter of getting students to consider their options.


3a92488 In addition to providing advocacy for survivors of sexual assault, Jessie is the newest presenter for our Prevention Education Program at Tri-Valley Haven. Learn more about our teen presentations our Teen page on our website.

Tri-Valley Haven’s Highlights of 2014

Without your generosity, we could not continue to provide vital shelter and support services to women, children and families in need throughout the Tri-Valley area. Every successful program and event at Tri-Valley Haven is made possible thanks to our local community. We are so very grateful for your support.

Before we jump into the New Year, let’s look at some highlights of 2014!

  • 2,600+ calls received on Tri-Valley Haven’s crisis line! That’s almost 10 calls every day, from women, children and families in need.
  • 267 clients served at our Domestic Violence Shelter! With 30 beds, Tri-Valley Haven’s Shiloh Domestic Violence Shelter houses and supports women and their children who are survivors of domestic violence.
  • 245 clients served through our Rape Crisis Center! Survivors of sexual assault receive advocacy and crisis counseling from state-certified advocates through our Rape Crisis Center.
  • 96 clients served at our Homeless Shelter! Sojourner House is the only homeless shelter in the Tri-Valley Area that accepts two-parent families, single fathers with children, and families with teenage boys.
  • 249 clients received counseling at Tri-Valley Haven! Tri-Valley Haven offers counseling and support group services to empower and support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
  • Almost 30,000 visits to our Food Pantry! Each month, the Tri-Valley Haven Food Pantry distributes free groceries to more than 4,000 low-income Tri-Valley residents.
  • 70+ volunteers trained during this year! No only did we train over 30 new volunteers as crisis line and sexual assault advocates, we also trained volunteers for our food pantry, thrift store and childcare services.
  • 40+ incarcerated survivors served by our Rape Crisis Center! Now incarcerated survivors at Santa Rita Jail and FCI-Dublin are able to contact our 24-hour toll-free crisis line and request advocacy services through our agency.
  • 150+ walkers/runners participated in our annual Pace for Pace event! In the past, Pace for Peace has been a smaller event (averaging about 30 participants a year), so we were floored when over 150 participants signed up to show their support for Tri-Valley Haven.
  • $2,000 raised for Tri-Valley Haven during #GivingTuesday! On December 2nd, our Tri-Valley community joined the new tradition of generosity after Thanksgiving and Black Friday. This was TVH’s first year participating and we received $2,000 in donations!
  • 4,036 individual family members signed up for our annual Holiday Program! With your support, we were able to provide food and gifts to over 900 local families in need this holiday season. Our Tri-Valley community went above and beyond this holiday season.
  • 1 incredibly moving experience at a middle school!  After one of our presentations on healthy relationships and bullying prevention at a local middle school in Livermore, a 12-year-old told our staff that no one had ever talked to them about ways to stay safe and prevent bullying. To thank TVH, the student gave the Preventionist .30¢ as a “a tip.”

With your help, we’ll raise funds to bring hope, healing and safety for women, children and families recovering from domestic violence, sexual assault and homelessness in 2015.

Make your 2014 tax-deductible donation by midnight to help Tri-Valley Haven to meet our fundraising goals this year, to enable our services to continue forward next year.

Together we can build a world without violence!

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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.

“Last Night, It Was Closer to Home…” (How to make a difference.)

This afternoon, when I got to the office (I am attending an in-service later tonight, thus a late start to the day), I had several messages from a co-worker, Samantha.  Samantha is a remarkable person – she is the young, determined, extremely capable and organized, passionate and politically-savvy head of our Homeless Services program.  She manages Sojourner House, our 16-bed homeless family shelter, our Food Pantry, Thrift Store and other Homeless-centered services.  She also happens to be one of my very best resources for “what is going on around the world” in terms of human rights issues of all kinds.

Today, she had left me two items — one of them was extremely personal to her, and she gave permission to share the story.  The other is a wonderful series of posters from Missoula’s “Intervention in Action” project.  More on that in a moment.  What I want to start off with, though, is the story she told — in her own words — of how she had her faith in humanity reaffirmed last night:

Samantha is the director of Tri-Valley Haven's Homeless Services department - a one-woman powerhouse of passionate, intelligent advocacy for those in need in our community.

Samantha is the director of Tri-Valley Haven’s Homeless Services department – a one-woman powerhouse of passionate, intelligent advocacy for those in need in our community.

Sometimes being an advocate against violence can feel like you are banging your head against the wall or screaming as loud as you can at deaf ears. Rape culture and domestic violence are very prevalent in society and, through venues such as media, actually encouraged. It leaves me feeling deflated at times.  But every now and then I am reminded there is hope for this society in ending violence towards women (and all of humanity), and that the work I am doing is not futile.

 Usually I get my faith reaffirmed by an amazing news article about someone who stood up and intervened, preventing a woman from getting assaulted.  However, last night it was closer to home. I was chatting with my partner about his day and he shared with me a situation that happened to his 20-year old male cousin. His cousin lives with a couple and the other night the male party started physically assaulting his female partner. His cousin did not stand by and pretend it wasn’t happening, nor decide it was not his business and let it continue. In fact, he took a stand– intervening, calling the cops, and assisting his female roommate in establishing safety. He made a choice to say this behavior is not acceptable and he would not stand by and let it continue.

 As my partner was sharing this story with me…all I could think about is how proud I am of this 20-year-old male and that somewhere along the way he did get the message that he can stand up against violence as a bystander.

 I can’t wait to see him again and tell him how proud I am of him myself.

You know, that restores my faith in humanity, too.
Now to share her other story — this one is about a really great poster campaign by the “Intervention in Action” project, which is a group of community organizations dedicated to ending sexual violence.  This poster campaign really highlights a couple of excellent things — the ways in which moral, responsible men and women (meaning, most men and women) can take a stand in preventing sexual violence.  So often, violence happens and those who are witnesses to it stand by… oftentimes because they don’t know what to do, or how to help, or become swept up in the group-think that allows terrible situations to escalate unchallenged.  What Samantha’s story above shows was one man who broke out of that paralysis and intervened — a real-life hero.  An everyday hero in a world where such interventions happen every day… but not nearly often enough.

These posters talk about the same kind of situation, and also highlight the stereotypes that culturally give the “it’s ok, go ahead” nod to violence against women… and challenge them in a wonderful, clever way.  Here are a few of them:

I Could Tell She Was Asking For ItA Girl That Wasted Is Way Easy933871_297802630363523_2002242685_n

Teens Becoming Active Bystanders and Pledging to Support Healthy Relationships!

Teens from Dublin High School pledge to help end dating violence in their school.

Teens from Dublin High School pledge to help end dating violence in their school.

Look at all that purple!

In the, “There is Hope For The World” department of blog reporting:

Today at Dublin High School, teenagers from Tri-Valley Haven’s Be Strong Group held a Violence Prevention Event in the school’s courtyard. Male and female teens signed hearts pledging to do their part to end teen dating violence. Students also took Healthy Relationship Quizzes, and discussed ways to remain safe in dating relationships.

“Be Strong is a teen violence prevention program aimed at helping female youth define respect, healthy relationships, and support one another as they put these concepts into place,” says Linda Law, Tri-Valley Haven’s Prevention Instructor. “The Be Strong teen leaders ran today’s event and encouraged fellow students to join in!”

Sometimes hearing about healthy relationships from adults when you’re a teen isn’t exactly the most helpful or effective way to get the message.  But when you hear about it from your own friends and classmates and peers, that’s when the magic happens.

A little magic happened today.

Doing Bystander Intervention the Right Way! (Thanks to the Kiwis!)

Some weeks, I struggle to come up with a blog post I am happy with.  Sometimes, blog posts fall into my lap, video and all.  This time, my coworker Samantha found this gem from  New Zealand.  It is a short, direct, well-filmed and amazing spot on how to be a good bystander… and how much of a difference a small act at the right place and time can make.  (And besides, I love Kiwi accents.)

Check this out!  Let me know what you think–good, bad or indifferent.  And then pass it on!

“Hello… Are You All Right?”

tumblr_m0bepo6OMA1r8u69vI have a cold today—I’ve had it since Saturday.  I didn’t sleep well last night due to impersonating a human faucet.  But I need to be at work for my late shift—in at 1 PM and out at 8 PM.  So, in order to cheer myself up, I go to a local diner for lunch.  I eat alone, reading my Kindle on my iPhone and when I am finished, I have about ten minutes to spare before I have to drive the rest of the way to work.

I walk to my car, unlock it, and get in, closing the door.  I notice vaguely that my car is facing an old, battered white pickup in the parking lot and that there is an older man sitting in it.  Then I pull out my iPhone, fire up the Kindle, and work on finishing my chapter.  Sometime in the reading, I pause.  Because I feel fairly crummy and my eyes have that tired, burning I-have-a-cold feeling to them, I shut them briefly and slump, leaning my head back against the head-rest.  I sigh.

I straighten a bit and go back to reading from my Kindle app.  And a moment later, there is movement to my left and a soft tapping at the glass of my driver-side window.  I glance up, surprised, and see that it is the old man who had been in the pickup truck.  He smiles carefully—I am sure that any man approaching a single woman in a parking lot must be acutely aware that he might be perceived as possibly a threat—and says, “Hello… are you all right?”  His voice is kind.  His teeth are false.

I realize suddenly that I must have looked deeply unhappy—head bowed (you can’t see I am reading from the outside), then resting my head back against the seat and slumping.  Alone in the car, aimless, after being alone in the restaurant.

I open the window a little and smile.  “Oh, thank you!” I say.  “I’m fine, really, I just have a cold and so I’m a little draggy.  But thank you so much for checking on me.  That was really kind of you!”

He lingers a moment to be sure I am not putting on a brave face.  He says, “You just seemed… worried.”

I show him my iPhone Kindle book. He smiles, relieved.  I smile back and thank him again.

He heads back to his battered old white pick-up and starts it up.  I wave and he waves and we smile again before he pulls away, off to do whatever was part of his day.

Apart from having an annoying cold, I am okay today.  But what if I had not been?  What if I had been sitting in that parking lot because I was afraid to go home, because my partner abused me?  What if I was dealing with a death or a severe illness, or fear for a child who was in trouble with drugs?  The possibilities are so limitless—and fortunately for me, I was really okay.

But if I had not been, that moment of kindness could have literally been a lifesaver.

Thank you, old man in the white pickup.  I don’t even know your name.  And you don’t know mine.  But I think I will remember you for a long time.

Sometimes, being an active bystander isn’t about intervening in a huge, scary fight or stopping a date rape cold or helping someone struck by a car.  Sometimes, being an active bystander is simply being… kind.  Simply noticing other people and then having the courage to go up to them and ask…

“Hello… are you all right?”

The Longest Night of the Year – National Homeless Persons Memorial Day

169_IreneHomelessIn the midst of gratitude and holiday spirit, we are reminded that there is still so much work left to do and so much change needed in the world.

Tomorrow is National Homeless Persons Memorial Day – a day to remember, honor and mourn our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, cousins and friends who died this year on the streets.  Homeless people die from illnesses that affect everyone, and are frequently without health care. Homeless people die from exposure, unprotected from the heat and cold. Homeless people die from violence, often in unprovoked hate crimes. Health care is a human right. Housing is a human right. Physical safety is a human right. Remember our neighbors and friends who have died without homes. Remember why they died.

December 21st is the first day of winter — the longest night of the year.  Who is outside and without shelter on this night?  The Tri-Valley Haven’s family homeless shelter and food pantry provide resources.

What can you do to help?

You also might ask — this is a blog about ending sexual assault — what do homelessness and National Homeless Persons Memorial Day have to do with sexual assault, or ending it… or this blog, for that matter?

Sadly, a lot.

Homelessness and sexual assault are closely tied to each other for women in particular.  Many scholarly studies have shown the extraordinarily high levels of abuse and victimization that homeless women endure before, during, and after episodes of homelessness.  Here are a few statistics to make you sit back and think – they certainly hit me hard!

  • 92% of homeless mothers have experienced severe physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives, with 43% reporting sexual abuse in childhood and 63% reporting intimate partner violence in adulthood.
  • In another study, 13% of homeless women reported having been raped in the past 12 months and half of these were raped at least twice.
  • Compared to their low-income housed counterparts, the sexual assault experiences of homeless women are more likely to be violent, and to include multiple sexual acts.
  • One study of women seeking help from a rape/sexual assault crisis center found that childhood sexual abuse was reported by 43% of the homeless participants, compared to 24.6% of the housed participants.
  • It is estimated that half of all homeless women and children have become homeless while trying to escape abusive situations.

Oftentimes, we talk about various social problems as unrelated to each other.  We talk about homelessness as a problem.  We talk about sexual assault as a problem.  Or domestic violence.  Or substance abuse.  Or mental health issues.  In reality, these problems are often combined, feeding on each other and tearing at lives, families and hearts in conjunction.  When you see someone who is homeless, you might only be seeing the tip of an iceberg of challenges.

How can you be an involved bystander when it comes to National Homeless Persons Memorial Day? 

Inform yourself about resources in YOUR area.  Is there a shelter?  How about a food pantry?  Free or low-income counseling services?  What is in your community and who is helping?  If you see someone who is homeless and you want to help, what can you give besides spare change?  Maybe one thing you can give is information – directions to the shelter or the food pantry, for instance.  They may already know all about these resources, but maybe they don’t!

Do you hear someone talking about victims of homelessness in a way that is abusive or stereotypes homeless people?  Take the time to let them know the real facts about homelessness.  For a great resource and quick read on the topic, you can take a look at this handout.  It’s aimed at high school students but it’s great for youth, young adult and adults alike!

There are so many ways one can be an involved bystander, actively working to help.  Brainstorm ways you might be able to make a difference this holiday season, and all seasons.

Thank you, and happy holidays!

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