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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!

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Why Will You Rise? Valentine’s Day! One Billion Rising 2015… flashmobs, catchy songs… and a very serious message

1br_rev_landscape_stack_w.date_whiteOne Billion Rising is the biggest mass action to end violence against women in human history.  The campaign, launched on Valentine’s Day 2012, began as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than ONE BILLION WOMEN AND GIRLS.

 

 

On 14 February 2013, people across the world came together to express their outrage, strike, dance, and RISE in defiance of the injustices women suffer, demanding an end at last to violence against women.

823490_588096431218669_772961687_oIn 2013, Tri-Valley Haven was among the multitudes of individuals and organizations rising up to demand that these857261_588096311218681_434111015_o issues be looked at unflinchingly and changes made globally. 

Last year, on 14 February 2014, One Billion Rising for Justice focused on the issue of justice for all survivors of gender violence, and highlighted the impunity that lives at the intersection of poverty, racism, war, the plunder of the environment, capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy. Events took place in 200 countries, where women, men, and youth came together to Rise, Release, and Dance outside of court houses, police stations, government offices, school administration buildings, work places, sites of environmental injustice, military courts, embassies, places of worship, homes, or simply public gathering places where women deserve to feel safe but too often do not. The campaign was covered widely by media in all corners of world including The New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, and many more.

One Billion Rising 2014 - Group 002Again, Tri-Valley Haven was a participant, sharing the reasons all of us as staff and volunteers stood by this cause and helping to spread the message.

This year in 2015, One Billion Rising is rising for Revolution and again, Tri-Valley Haven rises too. We invite you to join us as we gather for a flash mob in downtown Livermore!  For more information on the flash mob, come check out our Event Page on Facebook, and if you want to join us we even have links to HOW TO DO THE DANCE and we have PUBLIC DANCE PRACTICES THIS WEEK AT OUR COMMUNITY BUILDING!  (Tuesday at 3 PM and Thursday at 4 PM at our Community Building at 3663 Pacific Avenue in Livermore.)

We had a great time in 2013 and we can’t wait to Strike, Dance, Rise again.  Be there.  Be the change you want to see in the world.

(And dance, dance, dance…!)

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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Tri-Valley Haven Takes A Stand Against Sexual Assault in Detention

Every year, at least 216,600 people are sexually abused in jails, prisons and other detention facilities in the U.S. To put that number in perspective, that’s about a quarter of the population of San Francisco. No one ever deserves to be sexually assaulted and sexual abuse is never an appropriate punishment, no matter what the crime.

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Tri-Valley Haven staff provides support services to incarcerated survivors in Santa Rita Jail and FCI-Dublin.

Thanks to the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), correctional facilities are now required to offer survivors the opportunity to meet with rape crisis counselors who are able to provide crisis intervention and emotional support after an assault. PREA also provides strong protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inmates, bans routine pat-down searches of female adult inmates by male staff and places strict limitations on the housing of youth in adult facilities. This landmark law aims to stop prison rape and protect disadvantaged populations, such as LGBTQ people and minors, who are often more vulnerable to abuse in correctional facilities than other inmates.

Tri-Valley Haven is dedicated to supporting all survivors, whether they are in our local community or they are in detention. For over a year, Tri-Valley Haven has been providing crisis counseling and advocacy services to incarcerated survivors of sexual assault at Santa Rita Jail and the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin. Together, these institutions hold close to 5,000 inmates at any given time.

Our professional staff has collaborated with these facilities to ensure inmates have access to our toll-free crisis line and sexual assault survivors in detention are able to see rape crisis counselors. Though we have seen both an increase in call volume on our crisis line and an increase in requests for advocates since we started offering services for incarcerated survivors, we receive no additional funding to provide these services.

Does advocacy for survivors in detention look different than advocacy for other survivors we see?

While there are differences in the resources available to incarcerated survivors and in the reporting process within correctional facilities, our role as crisis rape counselors and advocates remains the same. We are there to believe survivors when they disclose, provide information about their options, and support them through their healing process. We are never there to investigate the sexual assault or judge the survivor. Instead we are there to support the survivor – whoever they are, whatever their story – and provide them with resources.

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“How About Now?” is a visual campaign from Just Detention International, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting incarcerated survivors with advocacy resources.

If survivors in Santa Rita Jail or FCI-Dublin want to report a sexual assault, our rape crisis counselors can help them navigate the reporting process. If survivors do not want to report, we continue to support them through their healing process in other ways. Often survivors in detention do not think anyone will care about what’s happened to them. Having access to our crisis line and the opportunity to speak with a compassionate advocate who believes them makes a world of difference for a survivor in detention.

When survivors are believed, they are more likely to reach out for additional support services and begin their healing process. For incarcerated survivors, this means reaching out to further support resources once they leave detention. Since we have begun providing services in Santa Rita Jail and FCI-Dublin, we have seen formerly incarcerated survivors call and come to Tri-Valley Haven for assistance after they’ve been release.

How can you take a stand against sexual assault in detention?

Along with correctional officers at Santa Rita Jail and Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, Tri-Valley Haven is taking a stand to end prisoner rape. But how can you take a stand?

  • Believe all survivors. No one, including survivors in detention, deserves to be sexually assaulted. Rape is never an appropriate punishment, no matter what the crime. If an inmate or former inmate discloses that they were sexually assaulted in detention, believe them and let them know there are resources available for them.
  • Support Tri-Valley Haven. We have experienced a large increase in calls since we started providing services to inmates at Santa Rita Jail and FCI-Dublin. Tri-Valley Haven receives no additional funding for providing crisis counseling services to incarcerated survivors of sexual assault. Donations by our supporters are urgently needed and always gratefully accepted.

 


3a92488 Jessie is a Sexual Assault Advocate on staff at Tri-Valley Haven. She provides advocacy services to survivors in our local community, as well as survivors in detention. She hopes that you will also take a stand against prisoner rape.

Speaking with Survivors of Domestic Violence: “Have You Experienced Any Kind Of Sexual Assault?”

Stephanie for blog

A guest post by Stephanie, our Legal Services Advocate at Tri-Valley Haven

Stephanie is our Legal Services Advocate at Tri-Valley Haven. Twice a week, she runs our drop-in Restraining Order Clinic. Below Stephanie shares her experience with asking survivors of domestic violence if they’ve ever experienced sexual assault.


“Have you experienced any kind of sexual assault?”

It is one of many standard questions that we ask during the intake process at our Domestic Violence Restraining Order Clinic. I never know what the answer will be. Some women answer very clearly “no.” A few will answer clearly “yes.” Others may hesitate a bit before denying that sexual assault has anything to do with the domestic abuse that brought them into the clinic seeking protection. And yet as I talk to them and find out more about their story, it sometimes becomes clear that they have indeed been sexually assaulted at the hands of their intimate partner or spouse.

Rene* came in our clinic to seek a restraining order from her abusive husband. They had been married for many years but she was tired of the abuse and ready to end the marriage. Though she had initially answered “no” when I asked her if she had experienced sexual assault, it became clear as she told her story that indeed sexual assault had been a regular occurrence.

Marital or intimate partner rape is any unwanted intercourse or penetration obtained by force, threat of force, or when the spouse/partner is unable to consent. Rene, like many people, did not associate sexual assault with marriage, which is no surprise since historically sexual assault in marriage was not considered a crime. But today marital rape is a crime in all 50 states.

Still it can be hard for survivors in intimate relationships with an abuser to recognize when they have been victims of sexual assault. Rene is a perfect example.

Rene’s husband would often make sexual advances that she felt powerless to refuse because she knew that if she did, he would become violent as he had done many times in the past.  Thus she had sex with her husband even though she did not want to because she faced the threat of violent physical abuse if she didn’t. This kind of choice is no choice at all. Rene’s husband raped her, plain and simple.

Other examples of intimate partner rape include (but are not limited to):

  • Forcing sex with a spouse or partner who is asleep, intoxicated, drugged or unconscious
  • Sex when the spouse or partner feels or has been threatened with violence or harm if they refuse
  • Forcing sex by emotional manipulation, such as verbal abuse, threatening divorce, to harm or take the children, or to “get it from some else”
  • Any time the spouse or partner feels they have no other choice but to submit to sex. The absence of choice is quite simply the absence of consent.

Some may think that this type of sexual violence is not “as bad” as being raped by a stranger. But in fact, the trauma can be worse for victims because the abuse is likely to happen repeatedly. Many times survivors of domestic violence feel trapped in the relationship and face pressure from their community to persevere. Further aggravating the trauma that survivors feel is the profound sense of betrayal from someone they should be able to trust with their safety and well-being. Children from the relationship are also adversely affected by witnessing the abuse and its impact on their parent.

If you or someone you know is experiencing this kind of intimate partner violence, there is help available! Call our hotline at 1-800-884-8119 for crisis counseling, information and referrals. For more information about our bi-weekly Restraining Order Clinic, call (925) 449-5847 x 206.

*Names have been changed.

So, I am trying to imagine a world where college women love to report false rapes because…

…they are getting really cool privileges out of doing so.  This is what George Will, columnist for the Washington Post, claims is going on in his recent spew of… um… opinion. Bpu-GTiIgAA_s6_

“…when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.”

He helpfully puts quotation remarks around sexual assault to make it clear that, it’s all, you know… lies.

“Consider the supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. ‘sexual assault.’ … Now the Obama administration is riding to the rescue of “sexual assault” victims. It vows to excavate equities from the ambiguities of the hookup culture, this cocktail of hormones, alcohol and the faux sophistication of today’s prolonged adolescence of especially privileged young adults.

Let’s break this little quote down into some component parts, just for fun.  (Warning… I use bits of colorful language.  Because this is a blog based out of my work, I will be kind enough to insert an asterisk in key locations of the word.)

A.  Rape, a.k.a “sexual assault.”  So a rape is otherwise known as a sexual assault.  Okay.  Except actually, according to him, rape is otherwise known as sexual assault with a knowing, eyebrow-waggling, “we all know this is just bullsh*t” set of quotation marks around it.  Sort of like talking about lynching, a.k.a. a hate crime.  Except it’s in George Will-ese: Lynching: a.k.a. a “hate crime.”  Because really, that’s overstating the matter, right?

(False reports of rape are rare, according to the FBI, occurring only 8% of the time.)

B.  Ambiguities of the hookup culture:  In other words, kids these days.  All they do is scr*w, scr*w, scr*w all day long.  And presumably all night.  Those slutty women.  Those randy, well-meaning fellas.  There are no sexual assaults in colleges, just irresponsible kids.  Except, of course, when guys are irresponsible, it’s just guys being guys and when women are, they are sluts and dressed too provocatively and drank the wrong thing and gave him blue balls and he Just. Couldn’t. Stop.  Right?  So it’s not rape.  He was just defending himself from an epic case of sexual frustration caused by that crazy girl.

(We are all conscious of and able to control our own actions. Perpetrators have the ability to decide not to violate another person. They just choose to do it anyways, and use this as a rationale for their behavior.)

C.  “Cocktail of hormones, alcohol…”  Because young men can’t help themselves, and really the whole problem is just alcohol.  Alcohol makes people do crazy things.  Why, just the other day, I was drunk on my couch and afraid I might get up and stagger into the kitchen and stick a fork willfully into my own eye. That happens to all of us, that terrible fork/eyeball incident, right?  Wait, it doesn’t?  Because it would never occur to me in a million years while sober to deliberately stick a fork in my eye?  Just like it would never in a million years sober occur to someone to stick their sexual apparatus into someone else who was unwilling?  It was just the alcohol?  Uh…hmmm.  Something’s off here.

(Although alcohol consumption and sexual assault frequently co-occur, this phenomenon does not prove that alcohol use causes sexual assault. Thus, in some cases, the desire to commit a sexual assault may actually cause alcohol consumption (e.g., when a man drinks alcohol before committing a sexual assault in order to justify his behavior). Moreover, certain factors may lead to both alcohol consumption and sexual assault. For example, some fraternities encourage both heavy drinking and sexual exploitation of women…) – (Study done by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.)

D.  “especially privileged young adults”:  Spoiled kids will say anything for attention.  Rapes don’t really happen.  It’s just young women who want lots of attention.  Tons of attention.

(According to studies, 42% of rape survivors told no one about the rape.  So much for wanting attention and “privilege”…)

Anyway, I am digressing.  Sorry.  I was getting carried away with other aspects of this idiocy.  Let’s get back to the idea that college women are falsely claiming they’ve been raped to gain special privileges.  My mind spins with possibilities.

  • Special discounts at the campus bookstore – just present a copy of your police report or evidence of a rape kit being done on you!
  • Sit at the front of the class in specially designated “I’ve been raped!” seats, where you can get the best note-taking vantage in the university!
  • Get special attention by all those dreamy, hot campus police officers who will sit you down in a room and demand you recount your sex life to them in detail!

Just what are these privileges he thinks women who report rape are getting?  And let alone any MEN who report, god forbid?  Here’s a look at some of the more real-life “privileges” of being raped (taken in part from the National Women’s Study on the Mental Health Impact of Rape):

  • Of those rapes reported to the police (which is 1/3 or less to begin with), only 16% result in prison sentences. Therefore, approximately 5% of the time, a man who rapes ends up in prison, 95% of the time he does not.
  •  30% of rape survivors contemplate suicide after the rape and rape survivors are 13 times more likely than people who have not experienced rape to attempt suicide.
  • Almost one-third (31%) of all rape victims developed PTSD sometime during their lifetime; and more than one in ten rape victims (11%) still has PTSD today.
  • 30% of rape victims had experienced at least one major depressive episode in their lifetimes, and 21% of all rape victims were experiencing a major depressive episode at the time of assessment: By contrast, only 10% of women never victimized by violent crime had ever had a major depressive episode; and only 6% had a major depressive episode when assessed.
  • Seventy-one percent of all victims and 66% of victims within past five years are concerned about relatives finding out about the rape.

In conclusion, the study summarizes:  “The stigma of rape persists. Victims are greatly concerned about others discovering they were raped. Service providers and criminal justice officials should endeavor to maintain the confidentiality and respect the privacy needs of victims.”

Stigma.

Of.

Rape.

Does this really sound like something college women would lie about in order to get the privileges listed above?

Really?

Really?

How much of this idiocy has to be spouted before everybody throws their hands up in the air and says, “Okay, enough.  Just… enough.  Go sit in a corner and think a bit about what you’re saying.  Try not to be a jerk.”

For more articulate and succinct responses to this, check out the hashtag:

#SurvivorPrivilege

As one poster succinctly put it:  “my is PTSD, flashbacks, panic attacks, nightmares, and shame…. almost 6 years later”

Yeah.  That kind of privilege.

———————————————————

* While I am an employee of Tri-Valley Haven, the views in this blog and the sarcasm with which they are presented are my own.  🙂

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month – Here’s what the Tri-Valley Haven is doing to Help!

Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)

We are mid-way through the month of April already!  It’s amazing how time flies! Halfway through April also means halfway through Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  While in some ways, it might seem nice to be halfway through a month of an emotionally difficult topic, SAAM is such a valuable means of raising awareness about sexual assault – how often it happens, who it happens to, the effects it can have on survivors and the family and friends of those survivors, and what we can do to help.  You know someone who has been affected by sexual assault – as sadly common as it is, the odds make that a guarantee.  That person could be someone you only know in passing, or a coworker, a neighbor, a friend, a best friend, a relative, a parent, a child… or you.  Whoever that person is, he or she deserves support, someone to listen to their story, someone to remind them that sexual assault is never the fault of the victim, and access to resources for healing.  Read on for more information about SAAM.

Tri-Valley Haven’s SAAM Activities Still to Come

April 23rd – Denim Day. 

Join us and Rape Crisis Centers Nationwide.  Wear denim on April 23rd and tell people why!  For great ideas on how to spread the practice and teachings of Denim Day, go to the Denim Day Official Resources Page!  You can also connect with the #denimday online movement to end sexual violence.

April 24
Tri-Valley Haven and Los Positas Health Center Team Up for SAAM 

Tri-Valley Haven, in collaboration with the Las Positas Health & Wellness Center, will be hosting a Las Positas SAAM event at the college on Thursday, April 24th from 11 AM to 1 PM. There will be a Tri-Valley Haven table full of resources and information outside in the Quad near the student cafeteria.  Not only that, we will have a traveling display of our Clothesline Project with us as well!

April 25th – Candlelight March in Livermore
 

 Every year in April, supporters, volunteers and staff of Tri-Valley Haven converge on downtown Livermore to honor survivors  , celebrate our newest volunteer advocates as they graduate from our three-month, intensive training, give out information on services and resources, take strength from our united presence, and raise awareness of our mission to build a world without violence.  Previous guest speakers at Tri-Valley Haven marches have been Senator Ellen Corbett, Senate Majority Leader and great supporter of women’s issues, and other local luminaries. 

This year’s march will start at 7:00 PM on Friday, April 25th.  Meet us at Lizzy Fountain Park in downtown Livermore, at the corner of First Street and North Livermore Avenue.  This is a family-friendly event and everyone is welcome!  Come see the display of t-shirts from the Clothesline Project, get your candles, and join us in our short march along First Street.  The weather is always beautiful and we would love to have you join us. 

April 25th – The Clothesline Project


The Clothesline Project (CLP) is a program started on Cape Cod, MA, in 1990 to address the issue of  violence against women. It is a vehicle for women affected by violence to express their emotions by decorating a shirt. They then hang the shirt on a clothesline to be viewed by others as testimony to the problem of violence against women. With the support of many, it has since spread world-wide.

Last year, the Clothesline Project took off at Tri-Valley Haven.  Haven supporters, staff and volunteers all made shirts in support.  Most importantly, however, residents at our shelter and members of our support groups created t-shirts detailing their experiences and their hopes for the future.  These powerful works of art were displayed at our Candlelight March, at Las Positas College, and in front of the Tri-Valley Haven Community Building during the month.

This year, we invite you to make shirts and bring them to the Candlelight March to add to our display (see below).  New shirts from the shelters and other supporters and survivors will join the traveling exhibit at Las Positas College on April 24th and in downtown Livermore on April 25th.  All the rest of the month, the shirts will be on display every day outside our Community Building on Pacific Avenue.  We urge you to participate by making a shirt, or coming to see and be moved by the shirts made by others.

Tri-Valley Haven’s Newest Advocacy Efforts – Santa Rita Jail and the Prison Rape Elimination Act

Prisoner rape is a national human rights crisis, but it’s a crisis we can end. Every year, at least 216,600 people – more than a quarter of the population of San Francisco – are sexually abused in U.S. detention facilities. That’s the number of people who are abused, not the number of incidents; each victim is assaulted on average three to five times a year
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Sexual abuse is never an appropriate punishment and never part of the sentence, no matter what the crime. This type of abuse is also not inevitable. Over the last decade, a growing number of people – including many corrections officials – have begun to agree with what advocates have been saying all along: We

can stop prisoner rape.Now, thanks to a landmark law, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), we have the tools to do just that.  Within the past six months, Tri-Valley Haven has begun to collaborate with the staff of Santa Rita Jail to provide sexual assault advocacy services for incarcerated survivors of sexual assault.  This collaboration part of the PREA standards passed last year which have given the law (which has been around since 2003), some real practical ability to address the problem of sexual abuse of persons in the custody of U.S. correctional agencies.

  Among its unprecedented provisions, the standards mandate strong protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender inmates; a ban on routine pat-down searches of female adult inmates by male staff; strict limitations on the housing of youth in adult facilities; and a requirement that all facilities undergo independent audits every three years.The standards also require that facilities offer survivors access to rape crisis counselors – trained experts who provide crisis intervention and emotional support in the aftermath of an assault. In other words, in the case of Santa Rita jail… Tri-Valley Haven advocates.

Within the six months since Tri-Valley Haven has begun responding to reports at Santa Rita, we have been able to provide outreach, crisis intervention, and resources for multiple inmates. We are glad to have the opportunity to reach these individuals, who are – by the nature of the system – vulnerable to assault, and who also – by the nature of the system – may not have many opportunities to get support after an attack.

How Big of a Problem is Sexual Assault Against Inmates?
  • 1 in 10 former State inmates reports having been sexually assaulted while incarcerated.
  • About half of these assaults are perpetrated by other inmates, the other half by staff.
  • Perpetrators tend to target people living with a disability or illness, those with a previous history of trauma or sexual assault, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or gender non-conforming inmates.
  • Prisoner rape, either by other inmates or by staff, is regarded as torture under international law.  
How You Can Help
Tri-Valley Haven receives no additional funding for this outreach into the detention system to help survivors of sexual assault behind bars.  Donations by our supporters are always gratefully accepted.

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

How Not to Write an Article About Sexual Assault (Inspiration Courtesy of Rolling Stone, Who Shows Us How It’s Done)

stop-victim-blaming1Last year, a girl named Audrie Pott, a fifteen year old Saratoga High School student, took her own life in the wake of a sexual assault by three boys that involved not only the assault itself at a party, but also photographs taken of her body, unconscious, after the boys had written degrading messages all over it.  This was a local tragedy that assumed national proportions, particularly coming as it did after several other similar cases had already hit the news.  The first was the Steubenville, Ohio rape of a  high school girl, incapacitated by alcohol, who was publicly and repeatedly sexually assaulted by her peers, several of whom documented the acts in social media. The victim was transported, undressed, photographed, and sexually assaulted. She was also penetrated vaginally by other students’ fingers, an act defined as rape under Ohio law.  The second was the suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons in Hallifax, Canada–the victim of an alleged gang rape and online bullying campaign that lasted months.

When I fell across a five-page article “Sexting, Shame and Suicide” in the September 26th 2013 issue of Rolling Stone about Audrie Pott, I was at first really excited to read it—I felt certain that an acclaimed magazine like Rolling Stone would present a thoughtful article talking about what had been done to Audrie, about sexism, rape culture… any number of related topics.  I thought, “What a horrible tragedy—but at least maybe some small good can come of the fact that it will help to ignite a national conversation about changing culture away from one that enables assaults like this to happen.”

Boy, was I wrong.

I knew I had to write a blog post about the article.  I’ve sat and stewed about it.  I wanted to make the perfect post.  I couldn’t.  So, finally, I am just writing my reactions and if I come off as angry and appalled, that’s because I am.  In fact, I am appalled enough that here and there I may use “language.”  You are forewarned.  Also, there is “language” used in the Rolling Stone article I am quoting as well.  Doubly-forewarned.

Also, one of the challenges inherent in this blog post is that to really UNDERSTAND what I am posting about, you have to read the Rolling Stone article. And it is on the long side.  But I know you can do it!  Here is another link to it:

http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/sexting-shame-and-suicide-20130917

Okay. Now, I am proceeding forward on the assumption you’ve read the article.  (You did, right?  Good…)  Because what I am going to do now is just call out sections of the article that set me back on my heels, made my eyes widen, and my blood pressure go up…and try to talk about WHY they caused those reactions.  Ready?  Here we go!

We will kick off with their introduction of Audrie, who they describe as:

A curvaceous sophomore at Saratoga High School, dressed in the cool-girl’s uniform of a low-cut top and supershort skirt, she looked the same as always, but inside she was quivering with humiliation.

If this were a male victim, would we phrase it, “A well-hung sophomore at Saratoga High School, dressed in the stud-guy’s uniform of rear-hugging jeans that showed his package, he looked the same as always, but inside he was quivering with humiliation”? Also, while we’re at it, “quivering with humiliation” is such a dime-store romance sort of phrase. “On the outside, she was cool and remote, but on the inside, she was quivering…”  Really?

Things keep going downhill from here.  Yes, this article seems to be trying to talk about a party sub-culture in schools and how it can be destructive, but what it really ends up doing is sexualizing a teen-aged girl in such a way that the conclusion seems to be, “Yes, she was sexually attacked, ridiculed and tormented, but considering how she acted and dressed, really what can you expect?”

 So, after starting with describing her sexual assets and dress, the article moves on to portraying her as a budding lush:

The summer before her death, Audrie had started to change, moving away from the kids she’d hung out with since middle school. She had started to drink a little and had dated a slightly older guy. When she drank, the self-consciousness that had afflicted her since junior high melted away. She loosened up. Sometimes, she loosened up a lot.

And we all know what happens to loose women.  Right?  So she drank and may have been with an older guy.  Which apparently makes it okay for her to be sexually assaulted by three unrelated young men and have derogatory things written on her body and photos of it passed around to public ridicule.

 Now the article decides to describe some of Audrie’s friends, and it can’t resist commenting on their physical virtues as well:

 Sara – 15, pretty, slim and blond – and Audrie had become close that summer and were exploring a new realm of boys, bottles and small parties, preferably at parent-free houses, that the Saratoga kids call “kickbacks.”

And we need to know that Sara is slim, pretty and blond…why? Interesting to note that nowhere in this article are there physical descriptions (or descriptions of any kind) concerning the boys.  Granted, they are minors and get some legal protection because of that, but it does still bring up the point of, “Why go describing all the girls in the first place?”

 Now we move on to the party at which Audrie was assaulted by the three young men.

 Eventually, 11 kids showed up, many of them to sip vodka and Gatorade cocktails. They all belonged to their class’s popular clique, the girls dressed as provocatively as possible, even by the loose standards of California high schools.

Here we are with the description of “loose” again.  What is interesting is how sexualized the prose is.  Loose can be “informal” but “loose” is also a term meaning a woman who sleeps around.  And again, we all know what happens to loose women.

The mixer of choice was Gatorade, or downed straight. Audrie drank hardest of all.

Which clearly means that whatever happened next, she brought it on herself because she chose to drink. Because if you drink and are female, you have no right to determine what happens to your body, and no right to be treated to basic respect.  Right?

Audrie was already stumbling and incoherent, taking shots and making out with different boys on the living-room couch.

Adding to the whole “slut-shaming” tone of this article.  This article reads like a cautionary tale  “See girls, if you dress like a slut and drink a lot, the inevitable conclusion will be that several teenaged boys will sexually assault you, draw degradingly on your body, the school as a whole will shame you, and you will have no choice but to end your pathetic, over-sexualized little life and later, a magazine will write about you and highlight everything about you it thinks is inappropriate.  Because really, you brought it on yourself.”

 Now the article talks about the actual assault:

Police interviews with the partyers pieced together what allegedly happened next. One of the boys Audrie made out with was so drunk he started crying and screaming. He threw up in the kitchen sink – into which someone had already tossed Audrie’s iPhone. Audrie was too blitzed to notice.

As far as I can tell, this detail about the iPhone only made it into the article for the “yuck” factor and to point out again that Audrie was really drunk.  (Although, she’s not the one who yakked on her phone so… the relevance sort of escapes me.  Moving on…)

Then three boys she’d known since middle school – Bill, Joe and Ron – and one of their friends, Mary, helped her upstairs into a bedroom (the names of these four have been changed because of the boys’ status in a juvenile case). Mary appears to have left the room when the boys started pulling off Audrie’s clothes and drawing on her with Sharpies. In interviews with police later, they admitted, to varying degrees, coloring half of her face black, then pulling down her bra, taking off her shorts and drawing scribbles, lines and circles on her breasts and nipples. Bill wrote “anal” above her ass with an arrow pointing down.

You know what is really interesting here is that this is the first time that “Bill”, “Joe” and “Ron” have shown up in the story and we’re about a third in.  Up until now, we’ve heard a lot about the way that Audrie dressed, the way she drank, the way she was making out with others.  We’ve not heard a thing about what they were wearing, drinking, or how they were acting.  By making this article all about Audrie and her possible foibles, it puts the burden of what happened that night squarely on her, when they are the ones who committed the assaulting and battery, (child) pornography and other crimes.

At some point, Mary returned to find Audrie in her underwear and put a blanket over her, then left the room again. With Audrie still sprawled out on the bed and unresponsive, the boys allegedly fingered her and took pictures on their phones.

So now we have the actual sexual assault. Classy, right?  Never in this article is the question addressed directly of what the boys thought they were doing, whether they thought it was right or wrong, or how we socialize boys that leads to situations like this seeming “okay” in their point of view.  No, we keep hammering on Audrie and clothing choices, appearance, and party-going ways instead. 

 Now we’re at the next day:

Back in her room, Audrie wasn’t so nonchalant. She was engaged in a frantic attempt to discover what had happened to her body.

By putting this in the passive form, it seems like something that magically “happened” to her body.  It would read differently and more accurately if it said, “She was engaged in a frantic attempt to discover who had assaulted and defaced her body.”

Audrie wrote that the “whole school knows. . . . Do you know how people view me now? I fucked up and I can’t do anything to fix it. . . . One of my best friends hates me. And I now have a reputation I can never get rid of.”

Writing to another boy on Facebook, she said, “My life is over. . . . I ruined my life and I don’t even remember how.”

The tragedy here is that her big “fuck-up” here was underage drinking—which everybody at the party was doing, apparently, and allegedly making out with various people, which one can also presume others at the party did.  She said her life was over—horribly prophetic—and that she ruined her life.  Guess what?

 SHE WASN’T THE ONE WHO RUINED HER LIFE.

Three boys ruined her life by thinking that it would be funny to sexually assault her when she was unable to defend herself, to scrawl graffiti on her like she was a bathroom wall, and to take photographs and share them around.  It is doubly shameful that a prestigious magazine like Rolling Stone then decided to–by implication–lay the blame on her after her death by centering an entire extensive article about her life and death on how her behavior and appearance apparently invited this behavior in others.  Wrong.  Wrong.  WRONG.

 Okay, take a deep breath.

 By about page three, things get momentarily a little less heinous in the reporting department.  The article takes some time to talk about some other high profile recent cases of teen gang rapes/sexual abuse and suicides, the discusses sexual assault statistics.  Then the article reports:

Rape stats may be no higher than in years past, but the numbers are as shocking as ever. Every two minutes, a sexual assault happens in the U.S., and nearly 50 percent of the victims are under the age of 18, according to Katherine Hull, a spokeswoman for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network: “The demographic of high school- and college-age women is at highest risk for sexual assault.” More than half of the incidents go unreported, advocates say […]

Yeah.  And maybe one of the reasons more than half the incidents go unreported is that when the incident IS reported, the victim can look forward to reactions similar to the writing in this article—“Oh, look how much she was drinking.  Oh, look how tight her clothing is and how short her skirt was.  Oh, look at her dreadful judgment and all the things she did wrong…”

The dreadful judgment that really matters—the decisions by her attackers to molest, rape or assault her—take second fiddle to the self-righteous tongue clucking of people who shake their heads over young girls these days and their behavior.

 Now, do I think that we need to have a talk about under-age drinking?  Sure.  A talk about clothing standards… er, possibly.  But should those discussions essentially TAKE THE PLACE OF talking about how a human being (in this case three of them) decided to sexually assault, scribble on the body of, take photographs of and share around said photographs of another human being whose only crime was to be participating in a party?  I don’t think so.

 Then the article takes on way that the photos of Audrie’s assault were shared around.  It says:

“It’s a perfect storm of technology and hormones,” says lawyer Lori Andrews, director of the Institute for Science, Law and Technology in Chicago. “Teen sexting is all a way of magnifying girls’ fantasies of being a star of their own movies, and boys locked in a room bragging about sexual conquest.”

Um… okay, whatever, Lori.  Maybe.  But in this case, AUDRIE’S PHOTOS WERE SENT WITHOUT HER KNOWLEDGE OR APPROVAL.  A “fantasy of being a star in her own movies” doesn’t even come into play here, so why the heck was this quotation even included?  It implies again that somehow Audrie was this sexed-up little budding-alcoholic tart who secretly would have loved to have nude photos of her passed around, when in fact, having photos of her passed around (after a sexual assault) contributed to her SUICIDE.

 So, now Rolling Stone earnestly attempts to discuss What To Do About All This:

Prosecutors all over the nation are facing the same social and legal quandary: How do you protect young women from not just sexual assault but the magnification of those assaults via the Internet? How much punishment can they mete out to boys, who in many cases are only a year or two removed from childhood, who seem to think they are committing pranks with phones and passed-out girls, and for whom the ultimate charge – rape – means the end of their lives before they start? Finally, how do you instill in impulse-driven teens of both sexes the knowledge that whatever they record on their phones and send can reach the entire world and stay public forever?

Okay, some real concerns are raised—valid ones.  No problem with that.  Except… waaaait…

 How do you protect young women from not just sexual assault but the magnification of those assaults via the Internet?

Here’s a nice place to start—just a thought.  Maybe we could protect young women from a culture that automatically links any sexual assault they suffer to what THEY drank, what THEY wore, what THEIR reputation was, rather than linking the assault to what their ATTACKER did?  And maybe we could protect them from big-name magazines who victim-blame them in their articles, thus “magnifying those assaults via the Internet”?

 How much punishment can they mete out to boys, who in many cases are only a year or two removed from childhood, who seem to think they are committing pranks with phones and passed-out girls, and for whom the ultimate charge – rape – means the end of their lives before they start?

Huh… interestingly enough, I’d say that maybe if the media and the culture PUT THE BLAME WHERE IT BELONGS… on the decisions of the attackers… that would (again) be a good start.  Is there more to this situation than just that?  Sure.  Am I saying that is the only element of a solution?  Of course not.  But the fact that an article out of a major magazine, theoretically trying to get to the bottom of a crime story, makes the whole emphasis about the foibles of the victim rather than about the crimes of the attackers sorta makes my point for me.

Okay, I’m basically disgusted enough by this article now to be nearing the end of my unusually long blog post.  I’d like to leave you with the thought that we are now only on page 3 of this 5 page article and right after talking about statistics and fretting about Why All This Is Happening, Rolling Stone leaps right back into the article with a discussion of Audrie Pott’s breast size.

No.  Really.

By the time she was 13, she’d sprouted 34DD breasts.

Yeah.  Because we really needed to know the exact size of a minor’s breasts after she is dead.

Then it finally talks a bit about the 3 boys who allegedly committed the assault and other crimes.  We’ve had three pages now, primarily discussing Audrie’s looks and behavior.  What do we get on the boys?

 According to Audrie’s friends, one of the three boys eventually arrested for the assault, Joe, was a leader of the teasing pack in middle school and especially sadistic. “He would pick one person to make fun of for a few weeks, then move on to another,” Amanda says. Bill had a reputation as a troublemaker, while Ron was more of a “sweet” guy.

Yeah.  That’s it.  That’s basically as deep as it goes.  Because who cares about the behaviors or motivations or socializations or past history of the alleged perpetrators… because they’re just the people who committed the crime, right?  (Yes, yes, I know… they are juveniles, blah blah.  But seriously, this is all that is said?  This is the extent of the journalistic digging?)

 Attorneys representing the boys have claimed that their clients had nothing to do with Audrie’s suicide and work to portray Audrie as a desperate, troubled young woman.

Ya mean, kind of the way this article does? And, after all… think of the futures of these poor boys.

 It’s a sentiment shared by many parents around town. “These boys are not bad boys!” says the mother of a friend of one of the boys at the party. “They are goofy and silly. If there is a sleepover, one of the boys might put whipped cream on someone’s hand. They are not malicious, mean criminals. This is costing their families thousands and thousands of dollars, and we are not all rich.”

Maybe as a society we should be raising boys whose idea of silly IS whipped cream on someone’s hand and not sexually fingering and assaulting an unconscious girl, writing and scribbling all over her body, and then sharing those images amongst friends.  Because, you know, there IS a difference.  A basic level of human empathy, for one thing.  And that’s something we as a society are not doing a great job of teaching.

In conclusion, some final quotes:

In response to Audrie’s death and the arrests, Saratoga’s teachers opened discussions with students about the case that had fractured the affluent suburban veneer of the high school. “In every single class, somebody raised their hand and said, ‘Well, wasn’t she drunk?'” says Hayes. “And ‘I thought she was drunk.’ And ‘She made out with two boys.’ ‘She was drunk and I’m sure she liked it.'”

It is tragic that the teens in the classes had, as their first thoughts, the ways in which they believed the blame rested with Audrie.  We can shake our heads over that all we like.  But Rolling Stone, by implication, has basically said all the same things by concentrating on what she did, what she wore, what her breast size was, and who she may or may not have made out with.  Congratulations, Rolling Stone.  You have showed all the maturity and empathy of those kids.  Except they’re KIDS.  They learn how to be adults by what we, as a society, teach them by example.

 YOU, Rolling Stone, are a powerful media voice in society.  And you should damn well know better.

I’m glad that non-profits like the Tri-Valley Haven and other domestic violence and rape crisis centers around the State and nation work all the time to do healthy dating relationship and anti-date rape classes in local junior high and high schools.  I am proud that we do bystander intervention trainings and the hard, day-to-day work of trying to change society to make acts like this unacceptable.  Because, quite clearly, things right now are broken.  Become involved.  Be an active bystander.  Let your voice be heard.  Support the people doing the work and let’s make this world a better place for our kids.

Before we lose another.

“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

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