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    Carolyn - Advocacy & Communications Specialist


    Jessie - Sexual Assault Advocate

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

40th-anniversary-tvh-logoTri-Valley Haven works all year long to raise awareness about domestic violence, but each October we make a special effort to get the community involved in our efforts because that is national Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

For nineteen years, we have kicked off the month on the first Saturday in October with our Pace for Peace, a 5K/10K walk-run in Livermore. The Pace began as a modest effort that would draw about thirty staff members and volunteers who collected pledges to raise funds as well as awareness. We were thrilled when the first Pace raised over $1,000. Over the years the event has grown to attract serious runners and families with their children and pets, who learn about our agency and support our mission with their registration fees as well as our own family of staff, volunteers and individual and corporate supporters who continue to collect pledges. This year was our most successful Pace for Peace ever, with more than 280 registered participants, and pledges and registration fees that netted over $15,000 to support our programs.carolyn-iphone-photo-dump-october-2012-1054

Please join us as we close out the month’s activities on Friday, October 21, when we gather in Pleasanton for our annual Candlelight March. We will meet at 7:00 p.m. at Civic Park at Main Street and Bernal in Pleasanton. Candles and glow sticks will be provided to participants. We will march to the old Pleasanton Hotel and back with our Tri-Valley Haven banner and handouts with our contact information for interested onlookers. When we return to Civic Park, there will be refreshments for all and recognition for the graduates of our recent 65-hour training class for volunteers.

Your support in breaking the silence is critical to ending the cycle of domestic violence. Together we build a world without violence.

 

Vicki Thompson

Director of Domestic Violence Services

#YesAllWomen Blog Roundup…

yesallwomen_largeYou know, I’ve been pondering so many blog posts related to the #YesAllWomen hashtag  (Yes, all women experience feeling unsafe because of their gender, yes all women have experienced harassment, etc.) that has grown out of the Santa Barbara shootings and the discussion of cultural misogyny that has grown around it.  I keep searching Twitter and reading the tweets from thousands and thousands of people, men and women, and their links to articles and blog posts.  It’s been an obsession the last few days.  And every time I think I have something to say… I find a post that says it better, more cogently and more coherently than I could.

As I type this blog entry, I can look to my typing stand on my work desk and see a large stack of what we call “gold forms” at my office.  Gold forms are the forms we fill out whenever we receive a call or request for help from a sexual assault survivor.  Part of my job every month is to compile all the sad, disheartening, tragic, enraging statistics from these forms.  Some of these women and men I have met.  Some I have not.  But their stories are spelled out in brief and spartan handwriting on the double-sided pages.  Every month, the gold forms pour in.  Every. Single. Month.

And you know what?  While some survivors are men – and deserve the same support and and belief and resources that women do! – most are women.  Most… are always women.  And so for that reason, I also say:  #yesallwomen.  After that, my ability to speak gracefully on the topic degrades a bit in comparison to the bloggers below, and so I think what I will do here is try to link to a few of these posts and recommend strongly that you read them if you’ve not already.

There is something fundamentally destructive about the way we socialize young men and boys.  There is something fundamentally destructive about the way we socialize young girls and women.  There is something broken in our cultural dialogue around gender, gender roles, sex, sexual roles… there is something broken.  That something broken contributes to sexual assault… to domestic violence… and to the murders in Santa Barbara.*

*Please note that I am not saying it is the only contributing factor.  One article I read quite rightly points out that the Santa Barbara tragedy can focus as a looking glass, with our perspective on what “caused” it shifting as our own focus or bias shifts – one could implicate gun culture, male socialization, mental health, and numerous other factors and probably not be wrong in any of these cases and more.

Rather than focus this set of links on the mass killing itself, I would like to look instead at the very popular Twitter hashtag and responses to it, and what this all says about the current state-of-the-society.Funny-Not-all-men-are-like-that-meme-t-shirts-Hoodies

The first of the blog posts I’m linking to takes to task the common protest of “Not all men are like that!” that crops up whenever discussions turn to misogyny or street harassment or societal ways in which women are made to feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or simply bodies without minds and spirits inside them.  In fact, #NotAllMen has become a common hashtag used to contradict the #YesAllWomen hashtag.  While it is undeniably (thank goodness!) true that, indeed, “not all men are like that”… it can derail a very important and necessary conversation about how our culture expects men to behave that does and can contribute to violence.

This first post is written by a self-described white, cis-gender male.  He really gets to the heart of why “Not all men are like that!” is an unhelpful and distracting response to a very real issue.  I recommend it highly.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/05/27/not_all_men_how_discussing_women_s_issues_gets_derailed.html

Over the weekend, as the discussion across Twitter turned to these horrible events, a lot of men started tweeting this, saying “not all men are like that.” It’s not an unexpected response. However, it’s also not a helpful one.

This next blog post talks specifically about the idea of nerd-culture and misogyny, but really what it’s discussing is the way we raise boys (who, of course, become men) to feel that their role in life is expected to involve the pursuit and conquest of women sexually at the expense of seeing women as the protagonists of their own stories and their own lives, with the power and right to make their own decisions:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/27/your-princess-is-in-another-castle-misogyny-entitlement-and-nerds.html

I’ve heard and seen the stories that those of you who followed the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter have seen—women getting groped at cons, women getting vicious insults flung at them online, women getting stalked by creeps in college and told they should be “flattered.” I’ve heard Elliot Rodger’s voice before. I was expecting his manifesto to be incomprehensible madness—hoping for it to be—but it wasn’t. It’s a standard frustrated angry geeky guy manifesto, except for the part about mass murder.

yesallmenThis post by acclaimed science fiction writer John Scalzi on his blog goes into a sensitive and interesting dissection of the levels of discrimination in society and in the individual that pertains not only to sexism or misogyny, but racism, homophobia, etc.

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/04/17/the-four-levels-of-discrimination-and-you-and-me-too/

I’ve been talking about sexism recentlymy own and others — and I have to say I’ve found it increasingly exasperating to see the massively defensive response of “not all men are sexist” that inevitably follows. One, because it’s wrong (more on that in a bit), and two, because the more I see it, the more it’s obvious that it’s a derail, as in, “Holy shit any discussion of sexism makes me uncomfortable so I want to make it clear I am not sexist so I’ll just demand recognition that not all men are sexist so I can be lumped in with those men who are not sexist and I can be okay with myself.”

Finally, because sometimes a picture (or a cartoon) can be worth a thousand words, especially when it can connect with some humor as well as a visual, I leave you with two cartoons by Robot Hugs:

 

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]

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

In Memory of… (Bullying, Rape, Slut-Shaming, and Rape Culture)

541166_467460256628136_1991560879_nWhen I was twelve years old, I was bullied.  A lot.  One night, my mom had left to go to a party and I was in the house alone.  I spent the evening in my room, probably reading a book or drawing.  When my mom got in, she came down the hall almost angry and demanded of me what the hell all the stuff on the garage door was.

What stuff on the garage door?, I asked.

She led me outside.

In the orange street light glow, the garage door had been completely defaced – Christmas tree flock was sprayed all over it, spelling out “Bitch” and “Cunt” and “Skank” among other things.  In a surreal touch, the person or persons who had done this had also cut out pieces of pink and blue construction paper in little circles and taped them (carefully, with a loop of tape on the back) to the surface of the door as well.  The front yard tree had been thoroughly draped in toilet paper.

I started to shake.

Not only had I just been humiliated completely, and terrorized—because I knew that the people who had done this were likely the ones who threatened every day to beat me up, who followed me down the street as I walked home from school, shouting insults and theories on my sex-life and who I was attracted to and what they would do to me if I made the mistake of standing up for myself or making eye-contact—but because this had all happened and I hadn’t even known it.  I had been in the house the whole time, awake, and this person or persons had come and scrawled these hateful, terrifying things all over the front of my house and I hadn’t even been aware.

My mom demanded to know who had done this—I just shook my head.  I didn’t know.  Even if I had, I could not have told her.  To speak of the bullying would be to admit how afraid I was, how unpopular, how I lived every day in fear and in the belief that somehow it was all my fault, that I was wrong and bad and stupid and ugly and all the things these fellow students told me every single day of my school life.  I couldn’t tell my mom because I was already getting bad grades.  I was already disappointing her.  I was already wrong and bad.  This would just prove it, make it worse.  And now she was angry because I hadn’t even been alert enough to realize someone was vandalizing the house.  In retrospect, she was probably afraid, too.

When I was twelve years old, I went to therapy—not for this incident, or the bullying per se, but because of an isolated (thank goodness) molestation incident.  I found out years later from my mom that the therapist once described me as having the lowest self-esteem of any child she had worked with.

I never tried to kill myself, although the thought crossed my mind.  Thankfully, I was able to come through that terrible time, make it to high school, eventually build up a social circle, adapt to what was socially expected of me, and eventually to heal.

Some people are not so lucky.

And some people suffer far FAR worse.

I am thinking of someone in particular right now.  She has been in the news a lot.  And she is dead.  She is dead because the humiliation and the fear were too great.  She took her own life.

Her name was Audrie Pott.  She lived in California’s Bay Area, not too far from where I grew up.  She was just 15 years old, and what happened to her is infinitely worse than a little garage door domestic terrorism.  You see, she was at a party where there was a lot of drinking.  She also drank.  Lots of girls do—and guys.  But in her case, three teen men decided that her being passed-out drunk was an invitation to rape her.  And they did.

And then… they wrote on her unconscious body, took photos, and shared the photos with others at the school.

Let me say this again: they took a girl who was incapacitated with drink, raped her repeatedly and WROTE ON HER BODY, then shared the photos.

The report says the attackers pulled off her shorts and partially removed her bra, exposing her breasts, the newspaper reported. Markings were found on her chest, legs, back and near her genitalia.

“They wrote ‘Blank Was Here,’ on her leg,” said family attorney Robert Allard, not using the actual name because the suspect is a juvenile. “They marked her.”

“The whole school knows… my life is ruined,” she wrote on her Facebook page.

Eight days later, Audrie hanged herself.  Her suicide is not unique.  Earlier this month, Rehtaeh Parsons, a 17 year-old Canadian girl, also endured continuous bullying from classmates after being raped at a party.  She hanged herself as well and died several days later after being removed from life support.  And in Steubenville, Ohio, two teen football players were convicted of raping a nearly passed-out 16-year-old girl at a party. A teammate testified that he videotaped one of the suspects penetrating the girl with his finger.

In the wake of these terrible, unconscionable assaults – all at parties, all with teens – I hear many people over and over say, “How could those boys have done something like that?  They must be sick!”  “Monsters!  Sociopaths!”

Sadly, I do not think that’s the case.  I think the reality is even worse—that the culture we live in places so little value on empathy, so little value on women’s bodies and lives, so little value on treating others with respect and kindness, that these horrific, unforgivable acts of violence and humiliation are “simply” progressions of “everyday bullying.”  And, in fact, the family of Audrie claims that a year before the rape, they had spoken to the school, trying to get the school to take action because Audrie was being bullied.  No action was taken.  The school denies the meeting even took place.

How far can bullying go?  What are the intersections between bullying, sexual harassment, and a rape committed on an unconscious girl?

When I was a tween, my classmates came in the night, when I was unaware, to my home.  They terrorized and humiliated me, marked me publically as a subject of scorn by defacing my garage door for everyone to see.  The bullying was sexual in nature, defining me in those terms entirely.  In the vast scheme of things, and certainly in comparison with these terrible cases I am talking about now, that act is of miniscule impact.  And yet, it is part of a continuum of disregard for the emotions and well-being of others that leads, in its extreme, to raping another teen, writing on her body to mark her publicly as an object of scorn, and then passing photos of this around to friends.

I did not commit suicide over what happened to me.  But I thought about it.  And I endured considerably less than Audrie Pott, or Rehtaeh Parsons, or the many teenaged girls who have been raped at parties, by their classmates, where they should have been safe and then were criticized and made fun of by classmates who chose to see them as sluts rather than their attackers as criminals.

When we attempt to brand the rapists in these stories as sociopaths or monsters, I believe we miss an even more frightening and likely possibility—that these are “normal” teens, caught up in a culture and society that does not teach them to value the lives, emotions, or worth of other people.  A culture that ultimately leads them to believe there’s not much difference between writing humiliating phrases on a bathroom wall and writing them on the body of the girl they just raped.  A culture that asks the victim of rape, “Why did you go to that party?  Why were you drinking?  Didn’t you know better” instead of asking the rapist, “Why did you think that assaulting an unconscious girl, writing on her body, and passing those photos around was an ok thing to do?”

As of today, the three boys accused of raping Audrie have been returned to their homes and families, wearing ankle bracelets to monitor their movements.  They are out and about in the world.  Audrie is still dead.  They hadn’t even been expelled from their school for the rape.  The school claims it had no authority to do so—all it could do was kick them off the football team.  For the three teens accused of raping, writing on and passing photos around of an unconscious girl, their life has changed: they don’t get to play football anymore.  For the teen who was raped, her life has ended.

Rape Culture is defined as a concept used to describe a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone rape.”

Audrie, Rehtaeh, and other girls who are raped are not only victims of the individuals who rape them, but also victims of Rape Culture – a culture that spends more time shaming the victims of the crime than it does bringing consequences to the ones committing it.  A culture, where instead of receiving help and support from their peers, they are instead slut-shamed, bullied, made fun of, and hounded literally to their deaths.

At Tri-Valley Haven, our educational department focuses on attempting to change the culture inside schools.  We do presentations at high schools and junior high schools, we form clubs such as My Strength for boys and Be Strong for girls, attempting to engage the students themselves in social change, in challenging the beliefs and stereotypes that support and condone bullying and rape.

Change cannot happen too soon.

For Audrie and Rehtaeh and many others, it is already too late.

March is National Women’s History Month – Sojourner Truth & the Rape Crisis Movement…

The history of the Rape Crisis Movement in the United States is – among other things – an excellent reminder that in order to fight one kind of oppression, one has to stand in solidarity with those fighting other kinds of oppression.  The denigration of one group of people is often inextricably linked with other kinds of tyranny.  In the case of the Rape Crisis Movement, the oppression of women in general and the oppression of African-American women in particular are closely bound together, and the first stirrings of what would become the Rape Crisis Movement came from within that group.

The following paragraphs come from Gillian Greensite’s History of the Rape Crisis Movement.

During slavery, the rape of enslaved women by white men was common and legal. After slavery ended, sexual and physical violence, including murder, were used to terrorize and keep the Black population from gaining political or civil rights. The period of Reconstruction from 1865 to 1877, directly following the Civil War, when freed slaves were granted the right to vote and own property, was particularly violent. White mobs raped Black women and burned churches and homes. The Ku Klux Klan, founded in 1866 in Tennessee, was more organized. The Klan raped Black women, lynched Black men, and terrorized Black communities. Propaganda was spread that all Black men were potential rapists, and all white women potential victims. The results and legacy of such hatred were vicious. Thousands of Black men were lynched between Emancipation and World War II, with the false charge of rape a common accusation. Rape laws made rape a capital offense only for a Black man found guilty of raping a white woman. The rape of a Black woman was not even considered a crime, even when it became officially illegal.

Perhaps the first women in the United States to break the silence around rape were those African-American women who testified before Congress following the Memphis Riot of May 1866, during which a number of Black women were gang-raped by a white mob. Their brave testimony has been well recorded.

Sojourner Truth was the first woman to connect issues of Black oppression with women’s oppression in her legendary declaration, “Ain’t I a Woman” in her speech at the Women’s Rights Conference in Silver Lake, Indiana, challenging the lack of concern with Black issues by the white women present at the conference.

The earliest efforts to systematically confront and organize against rape began in the 1870s when African-American women, most notably Ida B. Wells, took leadership roles in organizing anti-lynching campaigns. The courage of these women in the face of hatred and violence is profoundly inspiring. Their efforts led to the formation of the Black Women’s Club movement in the late 1890s and laid the groundwork for the later establishment of a number of national organizations, such as the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Although women continued individual acts of resistance throughout the first half of the twentieth century, the next wave of anti-rape activities began in the late 1960s and early 1970s on the heels of the civil rights and student movements.

During the month of March, I will add more blog entries, talking about the history of the Rape Crisis and Domestic Violence movement in the United States.  In a month that is dedicated to National Women’s History, it seems only appropriate to touch on the events and people that gave birth to the Rape Crisis Centers, the Domestic Violence Shelters, and the other support services that exist today, and otherwise might never have come to pass.  Many women and children, and the adults the children became, owe their lives to the women who came before us.

In closing for this blog entry, I will leave you with the words of Sojourner Truth, for whom we at Tri-Valley Haven named our own homeless shelter ten years ago.  She was born a slave around 1797 in New York and escaped to freedom in 1826.  Her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech was given in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.   I repeat them here:

Ain’t I A Woman?*Sojourner-Truth-9511284-1-402

Wall, chilern,
whar dar is so much racket
dar must be somethin’ out o’ kilter.
I tink dat ‘twixt de nigger of de Souf
and de womin at de Norf,
all talkin’ ’bout rights,
de white men will be in a fix pretty soon.
But what’s all dis here talkin’ ’bout?

Dat man ober dar say
dat womin needs to be helped into carriages,
and lifted ober ditches,
and to hab de best place everywhar.
Nobody eber halps me into carriages,
or ober mudpuddles,
or gibs me any best place!
And ar’n’t I a woman?

Look at me!
Look at my arm!
I have ploughed,
and planted,
and gathered into barns,
and no man could head me!
And ar’n’t I a woman?

I could work as much
and eat as much as a man —
when I could get it —
and bear de lash as well!
And ar’n’t’ I a woman?

I have borne thirteen chilern,
and seen ’em mos’ all sold off to slavery,
and when I cried out with my mother’s grief,
none but Jesus heard me!
And ar’n’t I a woman?

Den dey talks ’bout dis ting in de head;
what dis dey call it?
‘Intellect,’
(whispered someone near).
Dat’s it, honey.
What’s dat got to do wid womin’s rights
or nigger’s rights?
If my cup won’t hold but a pint,
and yourn holds a quart,
wouldn’t ye be mean
not to let me have my little half-measure full?

Den dat little man in black dar,
he say women can’t have as much rights as men,
’cause Christ wan’t a woman!
Whar did your Christ come from?
Whar did your Christ come from?
From God and a woman!
Man had nothin’ to do wid Him.

If de fust woman God ever made
was strong enough to turn de world upside down
all alone,
dese women togedder ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!
And now dey is asking to do it,
de men better let ’em.

Bleeged to ye for hearin’ on me,
and now ole Sojourner
han’t got nothin’ more to say.’

* An interesting thing to note is that Sojourner’s words have been reported in dialect and NOT in dialect.  She was, in fact, born and raised in New York and it is unlikely she spoke with this heavy Southern accent.  In fact, the first account of her speaking does not have portray the dialect, and later ones do.  Yet again, we see intersections of oppression and stereotype.  For more information on this aspect of the speech, this Wiki article has some good information.

FINALLY! The Violence Against Women Act has passed!

And we DID get it done!

And we DID get it done!

So, there have been a number of posts here on Prevention, Power & Peace about the importance of the Violence Against Women act and the shenanigans that have endangered it and hung it up in partisan politics for 500 days of bickering and stalling.  I’m glad to report that this morning, it passed through the House and is finally reauthorized with a vote of 286 to 138.  Even better, the alternate Republican version of the act, which struck out protections for LGBT, for immigrant women, and for Native American women, got consigned to the circular file of history.

Just for a bit of perspective, one reason that the Native American women portion is so important is this (taken from a Washington Post article):

Before the end of the last Congress, negotiations stalled over the Native American provision. That is, giving tribal courts limited authority to prosecute non-Native Americans accused of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes against Native American women on Indian reservations. As I wrote last December, under the old VAWA, a non-Native American man who beats up, sexually assaults or even kills a Native American woman on tribal land would basically get away with it because tribal courts do not have jurisdiction to prosecute non-Indian defendants. In addition, federal and state law enforcement have limited resources to pursue cases and might be hours away from a reservation.

The reauthorized and expanded VAWA also extends protections to other groups that are among the most vulnerable such as human trafficking victims.  It will help reduce violence on college campuses, and help rape victims by making sure that their rape kits are processed–there is currently a tremendous backlog on processing, leaving many victims of sexual assault in a limbo where evidence that could be used to bring their attacker to justice languishes without being analyzed.  Every year since VAWA began in 1994, it has passed without fuss and with expanded protections… until this latest time.

In America, we have long stood by the principle that the protections of the law are not meant just for some. The law should be there to keep all people safe. That is why VAWA’s expansions to protect vulnerable populations such as Native American victims, LGBT victims, and immigrant victims are so terribly, integrally important.

Today is a good day–a day of hope for those victimized by sexual assault and domestic violence.  Today is a day that America finally FINALLY said, “We support you.  We hear you.  We believe you.  You have worth in our eyes.  Your pain is real.  You deserve justice.”

FINALLY.

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