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    Carolyn - Advocacy & Communications Specialist


    Jessie - Sexual Assault Advocate

A Greater Community – The National Sexual Assault Conference from One Advocate’s Perspective

All over the United States, there are people hard at work to end sexual assault and rape. We work full-time or part-time. Sometimes we volunteer. We go to hospitals to be with survivors at midnight after an assault. We are there beside victims as they talk to the police. We are the counselors and group leaders who support trauma survivors as they recall grueling memories. We are the educators who work with teens and the schools to stop rape and harassment on campus. We advocate to local, state, and federal government officials to make our society more just. We visit jails and prisons when someone is victimized while incarcerated. We hear heartbreak. We see tears, courage, and strength.

We listen. We believe. We are there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

All over the United States, there are people working to end sexual violence. And once a year the people who support sexual assault victims get the chance to come together in one place. We learn and exchange wisdom and ideas; we support each other. We challenge one another to reach further, create change sooner, and spread sexual assault awareness wider.

NSAC GroupThis once-a-year event is at the National Sexual Assault Conference (NSAC).

This year, it was hosted by the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) in Los Angeles, California. I and a couple coworkers from Tri-Valley Haven’s Rape Crisis Center were fortunate enough to be able to attend the event. The theme was “Inspired by Progress, United by Purpose.”

We were definitely both.

I am sure that anyone who attended the conference would have many stories to tell about what they learned. I am only one person, so I will just talk about what I experienced. And what I experienced was… WOW!

I met the most amazing people at the conference…and amazing barely covers it. Participants included survivors who have become teachers and healers in the NSAC Plenarymovement; people who have been fighting the anti-sexual violence fight for their entire professional lives, and people who have just begun; people who work with survivors individually and people who carry on the anti-rape movement to the White House itself. There were young people, lighting the sky on fire with their passion and their vision, and older people who have contributed to decades of change and know there are still mountains to overcome.

The most wonderful part, for me, of going to the conference was that it embodies the same affirmation that means so much to survivors of violence themselves: You are not alone. For those of us working in the Rape Crisis Movement across the country, our world can seem very small sometimes. We work in cities or suburbs or rural communities. We know everybody in the field near us and rely on them for connection and support. To step into a greater fellowship of human beings all working together to make the world a better, safer, and more just place is just plain moving; humbling.

We had a number of topics this year: building safer college and campus communities, fighting back against rape culture, educating our young men and women to bring change now that will echo for years to come.

Another spotlight was put on ending sexual violence in the military. A recent study shows that sexual violence in the military is far higher than previously reported (new data released by the U.S. Defense Department). Collaborations between rape crisis experts and the military to address sexual violence are so very important. Our soldiers in active service and our veterans both deserve better.

NSAC Forge BoothOther topics included serving survivors of sexual assault in detention, working with male survivors and LGBTQ survivors, preventing child sexual abuse, and much more.

At the conference, I concentrated on the Prison Rape Elimination Act “PREA track”. This training dealt with stopping rape and sexual assault in detention – for example, jail or prison, juvenile detention or an immigration facility.

I have spent the past two years working as a Tri-Valley Haven Sexual Assault Advocate and Crisis Counselor, responding to our local county jail when an inmate calls and requests support after an assault. I am glad to say that the jail staff has been universally welcoming to me, good partners with the Haven, and committed to making their jail safer. Even so, responding to the jail carries with it an emotional weight. I felt that I had already heard some arduous stories. With that being said, the stories I heard from survivors at NSAC stayed with me at night.

Sometimes, society seems to think that anything that happens to a person who is behind the walls of a jail or prison is deserved – they broke the law; they’re getting what is coming to them. Here is a truth: Rape is never part of the sentence. Allowing rape to happen to the people we put in detention, turning a blind eye to it, condoning it in society through jokes…does not make our country safer, quite the opposite. It adds trauma on top of trauma, and ultimately makes us all lesser.

PREA SLIDE 2Roxane Gay summarizes what many people feel about victims of sexual assault in her piece, Bad Victims. “People who have been sexually assaulted know there are good victims and bad victims. Good victims, of course, do not exist but they are an elaborate ideal. They are assaulted in a dark alley by an unknown criminal who has a knife or a gun. They are modestly dressed. They report their assault immediately to law enforcement and submit, willingly, to a rape exam. They answer all questions about their assault lucidly and completely as many times as is necessary. They are adequately prepared for trial. They don’t pester the prosecutor as he or she prepares for trial. When they testify, they are modestly dressed. They are the girl next door. They deserve justice because they are so righteous in their victimhood.”

“Good victims” are never prostitutes. They are never men. They are never gay or transgender. They are never drug addicts. They are never mentally ill. Those are allNSAC PREA slide “bad victims.” The worst victim of them all? Someone who is already in detention.

But when it comes right down to it, we are all human beings with flaws and mistakes and dark sides. None of us is perfect. None of us is a “perfect victim.” And nobody, NOBODY, deserves to be raped or sexually assaulted. Not even someone in prison.

It was good to meet other people who believe that.

It was inspiring to be at the conference with many people who are passionate about this intersection between the world of detention and the world of advocacy. It was also inspiring to see how many of us were at different levels of this journey, from the pioneers, to those who have gotten their toes wet for a few years but are still just beginning, to the people who wish to help and to learn how to do so… and whose journey is about to unfold.

The takeaway for me was that there is no such thing as a perfect survivor of rape. All human beings deserve to live in a world where there is zero tolerance for sexual assault – out on the street, or in a jail or a prison or in an I.C.E. (immigration holding facility). What we do as advocates is to connect with the strength and humanity of every survivor. We remind them of their own assets. We validate that they did not deserve what has been done to them. This is a fact, regardless if we spoke to a victim at our office, in our shelter, at a hospital… or from behind bars.

CALCASA’s National Sexual Assault Conference reminded me that there is a greater community of people working to end sexual assault; my work going into the jail to support survivors reminds me that there is an even greater community than that…the community of humanity itself.

Together, we build a world without violence.

At The Haven: Support Groups 101

Support Group PhotoIf you are a survivor, you may have considered joining a support group to connect with other survivors and share your experiences. Tri-Valley Haven (TVH) offers support groups for survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault.

If you’ve never attended a support group before, here is some general information about what we offer!

What is a support group?
Support groups provide a safe space for survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault to share their experiences and connect with each other. Tri-Valley Haven’s support groups usually run 8 weeks and they are closed groups, meaning participants must sign up for the group in advance.

New participants are only accepted at the start of each support group. We do not accept for drop-ins.

What are the benefits of a support group?
Many survivors feel they are alone, so support groups give survivors an opportunity to connect with others who have also experienced domestic violence or sexual assault. Often survivors are relieved to have a safe, confidential space where they can talk about the abuse or assault.

Our support groups also aim to support survivors as they begin the healing process and give them tools to help them along the way. We also focus on helping participants to develop healthy coping skills and practice self-care.

Who facilitates a support group?
Our support groups are facilitated by therapists or crisis counselors who have received special training to work with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault through Tri-Valley Haven.

How do I sign up for a support group at Tri-Valley Haven?
All participants must call Tri-Valley Haven and sign up in advance. After participants sign up, the facilitator will give participants more details about the group, including the location of group meetings.

Domestic Violence Support Group in Pleasanton
Start date: Friday, July 17, 2015 (1 – 2:30 pm)
Sign up: Call Liz at 925.449.5845 ext. 2718
Participants must call ahead. No drop-ins.

Sexual Assault Support Group in Livermore
Start date: Wednesday, July 22, 2015 (5:30 – 7 pm)
Sign up: Call Jessie at 925.449.5845 ext. 2727
Participants must call ahead. No drop-ins.

I am a loved one of a survivor. Can I attend a support group at Tri-Valley Haven?
Currently we only offer support groups for survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault. However both survivors and loved ones may receive individual counseling at Tri-Valley Haven.

Do you offer support groups for LGBTQ survivors?
Our support groups are open to LGBTQ survivors, though currently we do not offer separate support groups for only LGBTQ survivors. If there is enough interest, we may offer one in the future!

Do you offer support groups for men?
Currently we do not offer an all-men support group. We hope to offer specific groups for male survivors in the future. If you are a male survivor and would be interested in an all-men support group, please let our counseling department know!

How can I join a support group or find out more?
If you would like more information or are interested in one of our support groups, please visit our website www.trivalleyhaven.org or call:

Tri-Valley Haven Community Building: 925.449.5845
Domestic Violence Support Group: Liz @ 925.449.5845 ext. 2718
Sexual Assault Support Group: Jessie @ 925.449.5845 ext 2727


logoIf you or a loved one is survivor of domestic violence or sexual assault, Tri-Valley Haven can help. We offer individual counseling, support groups, advocacy, shelter services and a 24-hour crisis line at 800.884.8119. We are a nonprofit organization that relies on the availability of grants and the generosity of our donors to fund our life-saving programs.

To learn more about our live-saving services and how you can help us keep our doors open, visit www.trivalleyhaven.org!

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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Moments that Matter – a small story from our shelter

This story was featured on the newsletter of A Window Between Worlds as part of their “Impact Spotlight.”  A Window Between Worlds is the non-profit that provides training to domestic violence shelter staff to use artwork with survivors of domestic violence to help in the healing process.  We have been using their “Women’s Windows” program for the past year.

I thought I’d pass the story along to our own blog so you can share it as well.  This happened some time in the last year with one of the residents at our shelter.  Her name has been changed to protect her identity.

Box Image EnhancedRemember the Important Things

“I did a Self-Care Box workshop, in which I had the residents of my group write self-care ideas on slips of colored paper (things like taking a walk, deep slow breathing, etc.). Then they decorated small hexagonal boxes with paint and collage in which to keep the suggestions, to draw out when they felt stressed.

“A week later, Jennifer shared this story with me:

She told me that she felt a little bad because the week before she had been kind of ‘flip’ about the group (although I hadn’t noticed she had been!). She also said that during the week, she’d had a really bad morning. She was feeling stressed, her kids were out of control, and she was having a really hard time keeping perspective and controlling her temper.

“When one of her kids swooped by her, she grabbed for him, but instead knocked the little Self-Care Box onto the floor. She said, ‘It was like slow motion. The lid came off and those little orange slips came out and all landed FACE UP, so I could read them. And they were saying, “Remember the important things” and “breathe” and all the things I had written to myself. It was powerful. And it was on the day before my 50th birthday.’

“She then gave me a huge hug and said, ‘I will never forget this.’

“It gave me goosebumps, and so I wanted to share this story with you!

 

 

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.

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

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

Art For Healing

In our lives, there are many "stepping stones" - events or hopes that lead us from one stage to another.  In this workshop, we asked the women to create a stepping stone symbolizing something they wanted to step away from, and a stepping stone embodying something they wanted to move toward.  These beautiful creations are the result.

In our lives, there are many “stepping stones” – events or hopes that lead us from one stage to another. In this workshop, we asked the women to create a stepping stone symbolizing something they wanted to step away from, and a stepping stone embodying something they wanted to move toward. These beautiful creations are the result.

Recently, I have begun leading a support group* at Shiloh, our DoTransfomationmestic Violence Shelter, that concentrates completely on using art as a means for our residents to explore emotions, experiences, fears and hopes in a way that is safe, creative, and expressive.  Art workshops provide a unique way to assist survivors of domestic violence in healing from the trauma of abuse, finding their voice, and building the courage to make healthy decisions for their future. For victims of domestic violence, art workshops provide a special window of support to share the complexity of their emotions, discover that they are not alone, and are not to blame for the violence. The art also helps survivors build healthy ways to handle anger and communicate non-violently.

What are your needs?  Do you need fresh air?  Relaxation?  A good book?  What are the things that make you whole?

What are your needs? Do you need fresh air? Relaxation? A good book? What are the things that make you whole?

At first, I wondered if the workshops would be well-received. Would a group of adult women really want to get together and play with colored pencils, paints, sequins, or construction paper? Would it really do that much good compared to the more “serious” groups like our domestic violence support group, or life skills? The group was set up as completely voluntary—you do not have to attend it as part of working the program at our shelter. Since it wasn’t mandatory… would anybody come? I had an image of me sitting alone in the conference room with a heap of supplies and a quietly ticking clock on the wall.

 
As it turns out, I shouldn’t have worried. The groups are really popular—when it comes right down to it, art can be an amazing way to build community, and safety, and even restore a sense of fun that the women who stay with us might not have felt for many years. And the results are beautiful.

* The training I received for this support group came through A Window Between Worlds, which provides training for domestic violence programs so that they can institute therapeutic art groups for women or children in their shelters.

Hands can carry a lot of meanings - especially for survivors of abuse.  Hands can be used to hurt.  But hands also can be used to hug a child, build a bookshelf, create a painting, reach for a flower, hold another's hand in trust.  Part of this workshop, which involves painting one's own hand, is the reclaiming of the hand as something positive.  Our hands are how we reach out into the world and change it - and ourselves - for the better.  What we 'can' do is reflected in our hands.  That is why we ask our participants to express their "I Can" on their own hands.

Hands can carry a lot of meanings – especially for survivors of abuse. Hands can be used to hurt. But hands also can be used to hug a child, build a bookshelf, create a painting, reach for a flower, hold another’s hand in trust. Part of this workshop, which involves painting one’s own hand, is the reclaiming of the hand as something positive. Our hands are how we reach out into the world and change it – and ourselves – for the better. What we ‘can’ do is reflected in our hands. That is why we ask our participants to express their “I Can” on their own hands.

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