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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!

 

 

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Support Tri-Valley Haven, Watch Amazing Theater! Laugh with Friends! See “The Good Body” at Las Positas!

This blog post is completely dedicated to our upcoming production of “The Good Body” on Friday, February 7th at 8 pm, Saturday, February 8th at 8 pm, and Sunday, February 9th at 2 pm at the Las Positas Mertes Theater in Livermore, CA. Tickets are on sale now: http://thegoodbody.brownpapertickets.com

 In “The Good Body”, Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues”, examines the female form in a hilarious, revealing, and compassionate way. Whether undergoing Botox injections or living beneath burqas, women of all cultures and backgrounds feel compelled to change the way they look in order to fit it. “The Good Body” merges cross-cultural explorations with Eve Ensler’s personal journey.

 Directed by local favorite, Eleisa Cambra, all proceeds from this extraordinary production go to Tri-Valley Haven to end violence against women and girls.  We’ve got the talent!  We’ve got the fantastic script!  We’ve got the theater and the programs and the tickets!   

 ALL WE NEED NOW TO MAKE THIS EVENT A FUN-FILLED SUCCESS… IS YOU!  JOIN US!

(But wait!  There’s more to this post!)

Lisa, Director of “The Good Body”, Dishes on the Play, Why You Want to Go, and Her Superpowers! 1383159_10151659860885213_2064949460_n

You have been the very successful director that got “The Vagina Monologues” rolling in Livermore as a benefit for Tri-Valley Haven. Do you want to tell us a little bit about how you got involved in the project? 

 “A dear friend of mine  was dating a woman that works at Tri-Valley Haven. I invited him to bring her to a show that I was stage-managing at the Village Theater in Danville. After the show, she came up to me and said that the Haven was thinking about doing “The Vagina Monologues.” I told her, “You are talking to the right gal!”  (Hehe! No ego here!) After that, we got together and it grew from there, a beautiful accident. I’m really lucky that I’ve been able to be a part of this, and to have been able to contribute to the Tri-Valley Haven.”

 In “The Vagina Monologues”, there is a section called “What Would Your Vagina Say?” In the case of “The Good Body” maybe the question should be, “What does ‘a good body’ mean to you?” Is it tall and thin, or curvy, or super-fit? Or is it something totally different for you?

 “The perfect body is the one you’re in! Getting comfortable with our own skin is where it’s at, and that’s what the show is about. “The Good Body” reminds us to be comfortable with our own body and ourselves just the way we are. The show takes a funny look at how we relate to our bodies and our bodies and food. It’s funny and poignant and transforming.  Everybody should come out and see it!”

 Speaking of bodies and food, if I came to your home and looked inside the refrigerator, what would I find?

 “My frig is usually pretty empty. Right now there are cucumbers, brussel sprouts, spinach, kale, polenta, and coffee creamer!”

 What’s your background in theater?

 “I have been doing theater all of my life, from putting on puppet shows as a kid for the neighborhood, to assistant directing/stage managing main stage productions around the Bay Area. I’ve done set design, set building, lighting design, props, technical directing, acting… you name it, I’ll do it!  Speaking of my background, I am over the moon to be putting this show on at Las Positas! I was able to be a part of many many productions at Las Positas. I owe a debt of gratitude to the Theater Arts Department and the faculty and staff here at the college. It’s where I got my foundation in theatre.”

 Who is a woman who is a hero to you, and why?

 “The only hero I have is Mr. Rogers. No matter what, he always loved me just the way I was. ♡”

 People might look at the name of this play and think, “What is this thing all about?” If you had to tell someone who was debating buying a ticket why they would totally miss out if they didn’t see the show, what would you tell them?

 “Come to the show because you LOVE live entertainment, because you want to laugh and be moved, and because you care about the work Tri-Valley Haven does.  The play is about our relationship with our bodies and FOOD! We can all relate to at least one of the characters.”

 Last question:  Name your superpower!  

 “My superpower is control and domination; need I say more?”

 Nope!  I think that explains why you’re such an amazing director! Thanks, Lisa, for everything that you do!   

20 Ways to Love Your Body

In honor of our production of “The Good Body”, here is a great list of ways to love and honor your body and to foster a positive body image for yourself, courtesy of the organization NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) and compiled by Margo Maine, PhD.

  1. Think of your body as the vehicle to your dreams.  Honor it.  Respect it.  Fuel it.
  2. Create a list of all the things your body lets you do.  Read it and add to it often.
  3. Become aware of what your body can do each day.  Remember it is the instrument of your life, not just an ornament.
  4. Create a list of people you admire:  people who have contributed to your life, your community, or the world.  Consider whether their appearance was important to their success and accomplishments.
  5. Walk with your head held high, supported by pride and confidence in yourself as a person.
  6. Don’t let your weight or shape keep you from activities that you enjoy.
  7. Wear comfortable clothes that you like, that express your personal style, and that feel good to your body.
  8. Count your blessings, not your blemishes.
  9. Think about all the things you could accomplish with the time and energy you currently spend worrying about your body and appearance.  Try one!
  10. Be your body’s friend and supporter, not its enemy.
  11. Consider this:  your skin replaces itself once a month, your stomach lining every five days, your liver every six weeks, and your skeleton every three months.  Your body is extraordinary-begin to respect and appreciate it.
  12. Every morning when you wake up, thank your body for resting and rejuvenating itself so you can enjoy the day.
  13. Every evening when you go to bed, tell your body how much you appreciate what it has allowed you to do throughout the day.
  14. Find a method of exercise that you enjoy and do it regularly. Don’t exercise to lose weight or to fight your body. Do it to make your body healthy and strong and because it makes you feel good.  Exercise for the Three F’s: Fun, Fitness, and Friendship.
  15. Think back to a time in your life when you felt good about your body.  Loving your body means you get to feel like that again, even in this body, at this age.
  16. Keep a list of 10 positive things about yourself-without mentioning your appearance.  Add to it daily!
  17. Put a sign on each of your mirrors saying, “I’m beautiful inside and out.”
  18. Search for the beauty in the world and in yourself.
  19. Consider that, “Life is too short to waste my time hating my body this way.”
  20. Eat when you are hungry.  Rest when you are tired.  Surround yourself with people that remind you of your inner strength and beauty.

“The Good Body” has a GREAT Director! (And here is more about her, in her own words!)

1383159_10151659860885213_2064949460_nEleisa Cambra has directed multiple shows of “The Vagina Monologues” for Tri-Valley Haven and is a powerhouse woman, with years of theater experience, a great sense of humor, a clear vision, and a whole load of courage.  She is also an alum of Las Positas College’s theater department, so putting the new show, “The Good Body” by Eve Ensler, on at Las Positas’ Mertes theater is a great opportunity!

I have gotten the chance to talk to Eleisa about what brought her to initially work with the Tri-Valley Haven putting on The Vagina Monologues, and other questions–some serious and some less so–to give you all a chance to meet her.  The interview will be in multiple parts, each one a question.  So, without further ado…

You have been the very successful director that got “The Vagina Monologues” rolling in Livermore as a benefit for Tri-Valley Haven. Do you want to tell us a little bit about how you got involved in the project?

Lisa:  “A dear friend of mine was dating a woman that works at Tri-Valley Haven. I invited him to bring her to a show that I was stage-managing at the Village Theater in Danville. After the show, she came up to me and said that the Haven was thinking about doing “The Vagina Monologues.” I told her, “You are talking to the right gal!”  (Hehe! No ego here!) After that, we got together and it grew from there, a beautiful accident. I’m really lucky that I’ve been able to be a part of this, and to have been able to contribute to the Tri-Valley Haven.”

More in our next post! 🙂

 

Boosting the Signal: WARP’D (Women Actively Rejecting Personal Distortion) — aka, amazing and inspiring teens!

“Imagine how life would be if… instead of making resolutions about body image at the end of the year— every woman made a resolution to treat herself and others with utmost respect and dignity. That is what I call a resolution!” -Tori Knuppe

Foothill High School junior Victoria Knuppe wants to change how women and girls see themselves— one woman at a time. An ambitious undertaking, indeed, given the messages seen in society, the current culture and an ubiquitous media but 16-year-old Knuppe is more than ready for the challenge. She is on a mission.

Knuppe believes women are “plagued with feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness” and says she also struggles with “self-image issues.”

“It genuinely breaks my heart to see the physical effects of this problem across the nation and the world,” Knuppe said. “And, what’s more, it breaks my heart to see nothing being done about it.”

[Reblog of article on Tori here at this link]

[Direct link to her website WARPD.org is here]

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

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

What stuff on the garage door?, I asked.

She led me outside.

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

I started to shake.

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

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

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

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

Some people are not so lucky.

And some people suffer far FAR worse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Change cannot happen too soon.

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

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