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Vaginas, Then and Now… Seven Years of the Monologues with Tri-Valley Haven!

As we come close to the curtain rising on this year’s production of The Vagina Monologues, I got nostalgic as well as excited for the new show.  I began digging in my archives for photos of past productions and found some great ones!  So, without further ado…

The cast of the 2013 Monologues looking amazing in their rehearsal sessions!  Many thanks to the cast for their dedication and hard work, and to Eleisa Cambra, their director!

The cast of the 2013 Monologues looking amazing in their rehearsal sessions! Many thanks to the cast for their dedication and hard work, and to Eleisa Cambra, their director!

Kristi Grand directed our 2011 production of the Vagina Monologues along with this great cast!

Kristi Grand directed our 2011 production of the Vagina Monologues along with this great cast!

Previous years at the Bankhead bring us wonderful memories!  Thanks to the cast of 2010 and their director, Karen Hogan!

Previous years at the Bankhead bring us wonderful memories! Thanks to the cast of 2010 and their director, Karen Hogan!

Some of the 2009 cast in rehearsal!

Some of the 2009 cast in rehearsal!

Vagina Monologues 2008 cast making the "V" sign for director Eleisa Cambra!

Vagina Monologues 2008 cast making the “V” sign for director Eleisa Cambra!

Cast photo from our very first Vagina Monologues production in 2007!  Just three cast members and Eleisa Cambra directing!

Cast photo from our very first Vagina Monologues production in 2007! Just three cast members and Eleisa Cambra directing!

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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.

Strike! Dance! Rise!

OBR-logo-englishWell, I posted a while back on the movement called One Billion Rising and I posted a link to a wonderful short film promoting the international day of awareness.  And then I managed to NOT keep posting about it (which I wanted to do, because this whole thing is pretty awesome in my opinion) and go on to other topics which are also important.  But I CAN’T STAND IT!  I have to post again!  There’s a couple reasons why I am so excited:

#1 – My organization, Tri-Valley Haven, is hosting a One Billion Rising event in our home town of Livermore, California!  So I’m putting out a link to the event here.  I know not all of you (or even necessarily most of you) who read my blog are my real-life neighbors, but SOME of you might be.  And so, in that off-hand chance… you should totally come to Panama Red Coffee Company on February 14th to celebrate with us!

#2 — Ok, I think we all love inspiring, uplifting and amazing dance music, am I right?  Do we love it more when it’s not only inspiring, uplifting and amazing but… international?  How about inspiring, uplifting, amazing, international and for an INCREDIBLE cause?  Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!

So… here are links to some beautiful art that people around the world are creating in honor of the One Billion Rising event!

Want to dance?  Check out the One Billion Rising theme song–Break the Chain!  I guarantee it will be stuck in your head, and that’s a good thing!  It’s been in mine all day!

Want to dance… en español?  Si, se puede!

For a bunch of wonderful videos–some from the United States, some from Mexico, India, South Africa and so many other countries, go to the VDay YouTube channel and be inspired!

And when you’re done dancing around your home, your office, or wherever you are when you plunge into this amazing outpouring of art and spirit, consider joining up with a One Billion Rising event in your area.  There are tons out there and you can even do an easy search by city, State, zip or country!v_day-page2437

Because sometimes being a bystander can be challenging, hard or lonely work.  But sometimes, being an active bystander means to sing, to dance, to be visible, to raise your voice… and to be part of something magical!  Strike!  Dance!  Rise!

Thinking About Mallory – Bystander Intervention, the Internet, and How We Are All Connected

mallory-owens

Something I have been thinking about when it comes to this blog is—what IS Bystander Intervention, really?  Some of it is pretty obvious—stepping in to help a friend at a party when she is drunk and someone is clearly trying to take advantage of her.  That’s bystander intervention.  Hearing a friend of yours making sexist comments and telling him, “Dude, that’s not cool.”  That’s bystander intervention.

It can be a big thing or a small thing.  It can be done with words.  Or with actions…

…can it be done online?

Weirdly, even though I’m writing this blog, I hadn’t thought so much about ONLINE bystander intervention until I read a recent series of news stories.  This story got me thinking about a whole bunch of things, actually—bystander intervention was one thing.  But also how we can’t really limit ourselves to one social problem at a time.  Things are all intertwined—that woman who is homeless might be homeless because of domestic violence.  That man who has substance abuse issues might be trying to deal with the pain of childhood molestation.  Someone suffering racial discrimination is being impacted by a culture that also perpetuates other kinds of discrimination and suffering.  We are truly all connected in so many ways.

This leads me to the story of Mallory Owens.  There has been a lot on the news about this young woman, who went to the home of her girlfriend on Thanksgiving, where her girlfriend’s brother attacked and beat her so violently that she suffered brain bleeding and needed reconstructive surgery and two metal plates to restore her cheekbones.  The young man, Travis Hawkins Jr., was charged initially with Second Degree Assault and was bailed out almost immediately.

Mallory-Owens-beaten_0

There has been debate as to whether this attack was prompted by Mallory being an out lesbian—whether Travis attacked her due to her sexuality and dating of his sister.  At first, Mallory’s family said emphatically that the attack WAS due to Mallory’s sexuality.  It also came out that in a previous incident, Travis Jr. had attacked Mallory with a metal wrench and threatened to later “finish the job” he had started, and that Travis’ father several years prior had shot his own son in the stomach–and several years before THAT had discharged a firearm over the heads of his children in the bedroom.  Clearly, there is a history of domestic violence in the family.  And clearly, this was not the only time Travis Jr. had attacked Mallory.

Mallory’s family and friends rallied around and tried to raise awareness of the relatively minor charge of Second Degree Assault.  A Facebook Community called “Justice for Mallory Owens” was formed and now has over 15,000 Likes and over 23,000 people talking about posts made on the Community Page.

Later, there was some confusion when Mallory—upon being released from the hospital—went to the home of her girlfriend and the Travis family for a press conference in which she said that she did NOT claim the attack as a hate crime.  Then, not too many days later, she said that she had been tricked and intimidated into making the appearance at the Hawkins home, and maneuvered into a position where she had to make these statements.  She then released a written statement saying she had been attacked due to her sexual orientation and that she was in continuing fear for her life.

As you can tell by reading this—there are a LOT of issues going on here, ranging from domestic violence to hate crimes, gay-bashing, child abuse, and more.  But what is at the heart of it—the core of it—is that a 23 year old woman had gone to the home of her girlfriend to celebrate Thanksgiving, and was left beaten nearly to death, desperately injured, traumatized and terrified.  She faces high medical bills that her family is going to struggle to pay.  Her life will never, EVER be the same.

The hope of her and her family is that the charges will be upgraded to Attempted Murder.  The likelihood that this was a hate-motivated crime seems extremely high.  However, in Alabama, where the attack took place, there are no laws on the books that include attacks against gays and lesbians prompted by their sexual orientation as hate crimes.  For these reasons and so many more, the future is uncertain for Mallory.  She faces a long road of recovery ahead—physical, emotional, spiritual.

My heart breaks for her.

Now… what does this have to do with a bystander blog?

A lot.

For one thing, according to reports, the girlfriend’s family did not intervene in the beating.  They were passive bystanders.  Why?  Quite possibly out of fear.  If this family has suffered child abuse and domestic violence in the way it clearly has, fear could quite easily paralyzed them.  Right or wrong, they took no action.  But it got me thinking about what might have happened if someone had intervened.  Could they have done it safely?  If so… how?  These questions in and of themselves could make their own blog post.  Or several.

But I was talking about Bystander Intervention and the Internet.

The INTERNET response to this tragedy really opened my eyes.  Here, there are THOUSANDS of active bystanders—people responding to the Facebook Community.  People posting in forums.  People signing petitions urging the charges of 2nd Degree Assault to be upgraded.  People sending money to help with Mallory’s medical expenses.

Can you by an active bystander on the internet? YOU DARN WELL BET YOU CAN.  And being an active bystander here can make a difference just as profound as being one in other venues.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, we are ALL connected.  You don’t have to be a woman to care about women’s issues.  You don’t have to be an recovering addict to care about addiction issues or their connections to poverty and abuse.  You don’t have to be a survivor of violence to know that violence in our homes and relationships is destructive, wrong, and pervasive.

And you don’t have to be gay or lesbian to care about Mallory Owens.

If you feel moved to be an active internet bystander when it comes to this issue, here are some links:

For the Justice for Mallory Owens Facebook Community, use this link.

For the GLAAD fundraiser page to help pay for Mallory’s medical expenses, go here.

For the Change.org petition to upgrade the charges against Mallory’s assailant to Attempted Murder, use this link.

Stay In Touch!

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Just a quick little bloglet here about OTHER ways you can keep in touch with my “parent” organization, the Tri-Valley Haven.  We’re based in Livermore, California and we are a crisis line, domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center, family homeless shelter and food pantry.  Whew.  That’s a lot of services for one little group!  We offer all those things, plus group and one-on-one counseling, advocacy services for sexual assault survivors (this means we will accompany you to the hospital, the police station, court, etc. during the process of reporting a rape), a restraining order clinic, and more.

This blog is really only ONE aspect of what we do–the blog is concentrating on the concept of Bystander Intervention–what we can do as just day-to-day people, out there living our lives in the world.  How can we help if we see violence or abuse?  Can we step in safely?  How do we do that?  Can we do something indirect to help when or if direct is dangerous?  Can we get other people in our lives thinking and talking about these issues?  Can we help to build a web of concerned and caring people?

Hey, I think it’s a worthy goal… what about you?

But it’s just a part of all we do.  SO… if you want to stay in touch with other aspects of Tri-Valley Haven, I’m gonna toss a few links up here on this post.  🙂

For our main website, go to www.trivalleyhaven.org – This lists a lot more information about our services and who we are, as well as upcoming events.

For our Facebook Page, go to https://www.facebook.com/trivalleyhaven – This is more informal than our website and more active as well, listing thank-yous and news stories and all sorts of stuff to keep you connected.

We also have an e-newsletter.  Drop me a comment here if you want to be signed up and I’m happy to do so!

And, of course… there is this blog.

So without further ado… on with the blogging!

One Billion Rising – It’s not just one bystander getting involved…!

(Warning, the short film linked here has scenes of violence that can be triggering.)

One In Three Women On The Planet Will Be Raped Or Beaten In Her Lifetime. One Billion Women Violated Is An Atrocity. One Billion Women Dancing Is A Revolution.

Join V-Day on
02.14.13
in a global strike to demand an end to violence.

This blog is called “Prevention, Power and Peace.”  I can think of few other people who have struggled so hard in the past few decades to bring the issues of violence against women to light – to spread prevention, power and peace – as Eve Ensler, who created the play “The Vagina Monologues” and founded V-Day.

This year, my agency–the Tri-Valley Haven–is putting on a production of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues”.  This isn’t a new thing for us.  We’ve put productions on for the past several years, nearly all to very full audiences.  I’m thinking about auditioning–I’ve been in a few productions already.  Being in the play or attending it are ways of being a helpful bystander, because it helps to give voice in a public space to people who have been raped and abused.  More practically, productions raise funds for our agency and many other agencies around the world involved in the work of ending domestic violence and sexual assault.  Also, it’s just an awesome play–by turns funny and heart-breakingly sad and always challenging.  I love some monologues and have an uneasy relationship with others.  It’s a powerful work, a flawed work, a work that sparks debate and anger and life-changes.  Not everybody loves it, but the fact remains that productions of it have done a HUGE amount to raise funds, awareness… and hope.

This year, Eve Ensler’s movement, V-Day, is based around the concept of One Billion Rising.  I urge you to view the film (with the caution that it COULD be triggering, so do not watch if that is a concern!) and to visit the One Billion Rising website.

Step up!  Don’t stand by!

 

 

Halloween, Horror Movies and Violence Against Women

Wow… really? This sort of sums up the role for women in a lot of horror films in a nutshell–victims of violence, rape… or both. And while this character in Prometheus is ultimately a survivor, her “adventure” still encompasses so many horror film stereotypes.

So, I am sitting here working on this blog post.  It’s Halloween night and I am on-shift at our domestic violence shelter.  It has gotten me to thinking in general terms about Halloween–because, well… it’s Halloween and I am working  instead of handing out candy to neighborhood kids or dressing up funny myself and going to a party.

Halloween is associated inextricably in my mind with horror movies.  For years, friends and I have watched horror films on Halloween night.  It’s sort of a tradition and I’m sure it’s not one particular just to us.  Tons of people do it.  So as I work at the shelter, I mentally review horror films I could watch when I get off-shift.  I’ve got time to fit at least one movie in before bed on a work night, don’t I?

And this leads me inevitably to thinking about the role of violence against women in horror films.  There’s a LOT of it.  In fact, in most horror films, the designated victim is a woman.  Or women.  Or women and kids.  Scary things just seem SCARIER when the victim is young or female or both.  Thinking about this prompted me to go searching for articles online about this topic.  It turns out I am far from the first person to think about this–no surprise there!  There are lots and lots of articles, discussing all aspects of this phenomenon.

There are articles discussing the evolution of women’s roles in horror (or lackthereof).  There are articles talking about how horror films often punish women for stepping outside society’s roles for women:

Men are often praised and revered for their sexual prowess; however, women are often punished for sexual promiscuity. In slasher films, the final girls who survive at the end of the film always remain virgins. Those that engage in sexual behavior often die at the hands of the killer. Evidence produced from the Molitor and Sapolsky study on Slasher films from 1980 to 1993 shows that “it takes women twice as long to die as men in these films” and “females are shown in terror for obviously longer periods of time than males”.[

There are articles about pretty much any aspect of horror films and women you can think of.  The more I dug into this — and trust me, there is a ton more digging I could have done! — the more I wondered, “Is there some documented effect (or lack thereof) on viewers?  What does all this cinematic violence against women DO to the viewer?  Anything?  Nothing?”

Well, there are a lot of studies about that as well.  There is a time-honored tradition of blaming the media for all sorts of societal ills and we blame all sorts of media, from TV to popular music to video games.  Some of this is backed up with studies.  Some of it less so.  But I can’t help but believe that seeing repeated images of torture, terror, violence, sexual violence and atrocities committed primarily (not completely, but primarily) against female victims must have some effect.  It certainly must reflect some societal stereotypes and beliefs.

According to Gloria Cowan and Margaret O’Brien, experimental studies have been done to show the effects of viewing R-rated violent films have found “increased acceptance of interpersonal violence and rape mythology”. These studies have also found desensitization with “carry-over attitude effects” towards victims of violence. These studies have shown, that after viewing slasher films, college male students have less sympathy for rape victim, see her as less injured, and are more likely to endorse the myth that women enjoy rape.[6]“Watching horror films is said to offer viewers a socially sanctioned opportunity to perform behaviors consistent with traditional gender stereotypes and early work on this topic found that males exposed to a sexually violent slasher film increased their acceptance of beliefs that some violence against women is justified and that it may have positive consequences”.[8]

The thing that gives me hope for the horror genre is that there are–here and there–gems of movies or TV series that have a “horror” theme… and strong women characters.  The obvious go-to choice (and it has been for years) is Ripley from the Aliens series of films.  I’m sure you can think of others too–Buffy, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for instance.

If you had to pick a list of good horror films or TV shows that featured strong women… films that did not rely on terrorizing or brutalizing female characters as their sole “gimmick” for freaking us out… what would you pick?  What would be on your list for a Halloween movie-thon tonight?

If you were with a bunch of friends and you were going to pick a “scary movie night” list of films and some of the more ultra-violent slasher films were brought up, would you feel comfortable taking a stand against films that glorify that sort of violence?  Would you have some good, scary alternatives in mind?

Just some thoughts while here at the domestic violence shelter on Halloween night.  Because the sad truth of it is… the women staying in shelters across the country have already had to live in their own horror films.  Do we really need to make it into entertainment too?

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