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One Billion Rising and… Vaginas!

That got your attention, didn’t it?

As you may have seen from my co-blogger Christine’s post earlier in the week, we are closing in RAPIDLY on the Tri-Valley Haven’s benefit production of The Vagina Monologues at the Mertes Center for the Arts at Las Positas College.  The collectible tank-tops are ordered, the program has gone to the press, tickets are selling rapidly and I personally am really excited to see the show!  In addition to this, the One Billion Rising event for Valentine’s Day went off around the world in spectacular fashion and we at the Haven got to be a small but proud part of it.  In honor of BOTH events, I decided this week to just share some pictures of our amazing staff and volunteers and actresses from this year’s and previous years’ Vagina Monologues productions and some photos of us doing our small part for One Billion Rising’s flash mob extravaganzas–ours in downtown Livermore.

I hope you enjoy and–if you are near Livermore, California, I hope you take advantage of our showing of the Monologues and come share the experience with us!  Photos of the Monologues come next!

We were small, but mighty!

We were small, but mighty!

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One Billion Rising – The Day is Here!

A crowd dancing for One Billion Rising in Poland...

A crowd dancing for One Billion Rising in Poland…

This afternoon, Tri-Valley Haven will host its own Rising event in downtown Livermore, but what we are doing is set against the background of a worldwide phenomenon–200 countries, presentations at the United Nations, a legislator (male) dancing for women’s rights in the New Mexico legislature (that video is hilarious!), flash mobs, original songs, poems, dances, demonstrations, protests… voices lifted and bodies moving and hope… hope for change.

The updates worldwide are POURING in on their website--you could waste the whole day, and more, being uplifted by what is streaming there.  And you know what?  I’m not convinced it would be a day wasted.  So much news is devoted to what is wrong–seeing people rising up with joy for what is RIGHT… that isn’t time wasted.

I know I’ve focused several blog posts on One Billion Rising, but I truly feel that this is an important event.  Will it end violence against women all by itself?  Of course not, but something this large, this worldwide and this… this viral, to use internet-speak, really should not be ignored.

I urge you today, if you are in the time zone where “today” is still February 14th and Valentine’s Day, to go to the One Billion Rising website and look up an event taking place near you.  I can almost guarantee there WILL be one.  Go to it.  Dance, smile, clap, raise your voice.  Be part of a movement that says that change IS possible, that women–all women–deserve to live lives free of the threat of violence, rape, pain and suffering.  1 in 3 women worldwide in their lifetimes will experience a rape or violence.  Let’s change that.

Let’s start today.

Strike! Dance! Rise!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doing Bystander Intervention the Right Way! (Thanks to the Kiwis!)

Some weeks, I struggle to come up with a blog post I am happy with.  Sometimes, blog posts fall into my lap, video and all.  This time, my coworker Samantha found this gem from  New Zealand.  It is a short, direct, well-filmed and amazing spot on how to be a good bystander… and how much of a difference a small act at the right place and time can make.  (And besides, I love Kiwi accents.)

Check this out!  Let me know what you think–good, bad or indifferent.  And then pass it on!

Awesome People Being Awesome – Thanks, “Bill The Librarian” for this great post!

484991_10151099306816879_963690422_nHey… do you have your OWN blog?  Are you on Facebook?  Twitter?  How about talking about being an active bystander in your own blog?  I just ran across this EXCELLENT post by “Bill Drew The Librarian” who has his blog on WordPress as well!  Here is what Bill has to say and I couldn’t have said it better, myself.  Thank you, Bill, for this excellent post and advice and for being out there, helping to make the world a better place, a blog post at a time! 🙂  As I run across other people speaking up about being an active bystander or offering advice… I will try to post about them as well.  We need to support the folks around us who are raising their voices to help others.

A Free Gift to Share with your Loved Ones

With the holiday season upon us, some of us eat a little more and drink a little more than we normally do. Don’t let drinking lower your inhibitions and ruin your or another’s life. Watch out for others’ out-of-control behaviors, too. Please share this information with your children and loved ones.

Be an Active Bystander!

What?
– Active Bystanders take the initiative to help someone who may be targeted for a sexual assault by a predator
– Active Bystanders also take the initiative to help friends who aren’t thinking clearly from becoming perpetrators of crime – Intervention doesn’t mean that you only step in to stop a crime in progress. These steps are “early intervention” BEFORE the crime begins

How? ABCs of Active Bystander Intervention.
– Assess for safety. Ensure that all parties are safe, and assess whether the situation requires calling proper authorities. When deciding to intervene, your personal safety should be the #1 priority. When in doubt, call for help.
– Be with others. If safe to intervene, you’re likely to have a greater influence on the parties involved when you work together with someone or several people. Your safety may increase when you stay with a group of friends who you know well.
– Care for the victim. Ask if the victim of the unwanted sexual advance, attention or behavior is okay? Does he/she need medical care? Does he/she want to talk to a Victim Advocate to see about reporting the matter? Ask if someone he/she trusts can help to get them home safely.

Strategies for Active Bystander Intervention

– Calmly and politely talk directly to the person who is acting inappropriately, or to the potential victim
– Suggest that someone observing the situation might be concerned about the person’s conduct
– Tell them that you are looking out for them. You would not want someone to misinterpret what they said, it could be taken the wrong way
– Ask them if they thought how their words or actions might make the other person feel
– Utilize creative options to distract the people involved in order to de-escalate the situation. This may involve humor or appealing to other interests of the people involved
– Tell them you don’t think the comment of joke is funny – Find his/her friends and implore them to intervene. Remember, there is strength in numbers
– Report what you observed “up the chain” and seek guidance on how to respond

If a problem occurs, call 911 or your local rape and domestic violence agency.

Let this be a happy, healthy holiday season for everyone.

Here’s a link:

http://billdrewlibrarian.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/a-free-gift-to-share-with-your-loved-ones/

 

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

mallory-owens

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

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

…can it be done online?

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

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

Mallory-Owens-beaten_0

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

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

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

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

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

My heart breaks for her.

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

A lot.

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

But I was talking about Bystander Intervention and the Internet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step up!  Don’t stand by!

 

 

An Awesome Bystander Moment – From Victim to Survivor… to Teacher

My Body Is Not Public SpaceSo, I was sitting here at my desk, dredging my brain for blog posts.  You’d think I’d be a natural blogger—I can blog for MYSELF like nobody’s business (years of me rambling on LiveJournal can attest to that).  But I find when I am blogging for an agency, I get the writing equivalent of tongue-tied (finger-twisted?).

I came up with and discarded a few approaches—how about that “binders full of women” comment from the debate last night?  Well, that’s not really about bystanders, is it?  I looked at news-feeds on women’s issues, I got myself some tea… I thought some more. What came into my head was a strong memory about an amazing woman.  So I decided to share the memory.

About a year and a bit ago, I was running a group at our domestic violence shelter.  The week before, I had done a class about awareness and assertiveness skills.  This week, I had just asked the group members whether something had happened to them between that group and this one that had given them a moment of inspiration or hope.  People who come to stay in a shelter are in hard and stressful times of their lives… sometimes hope is hard to come by.  I wondered what—if anything—any of the women would have to say.  I thought it might be awkward if there was just a sad and stolid silence.

Instead, all the women had amazing stories!

The first story is the one I want to share – this woman… we’ll call her Sarah (I don’t use real names) stuck her hand up in excitement and said, “I have something!  Let me go first!”  She said, “I was standing at a BART stop,” (Bay Area Rapid Transit—a sort of subway-like setup, for those out-of-area readers) “…and while I was waiting for the train, I watched this young girl.  She was maybe 20, looked shy.  And there was this older man who was making comments at her, talking about her legs.  You could tell she was really not liking it but she was too scared to say anything.”

Sarah was animated when telling her story, gesturing with her hands, really bringing the scene to life. You could just see the shy young woman and the man standing in her space, being too close, making her feel intimidated and uncomfortable.

Sarah added, “So at one point, the guy turns away to take a phone call on his cell.  I remember our class last week about assertiveness being ‘teaching someone else how you want to be treated.’  So I go over to the girl and I say, ‘Excuse me, but it looks like that guy is bothering you.  Is he?’  The girl nods and says yes…”

Sarah paused for effect, then said proudly, “So I told her, ‘You don’t have to put up with that!  If he bothers you again, you can look him in the eye and say, “When you talk like that to me, you are really bothering me.  I need you to stop or I will call BART security.”’

The whole class—and I—were really excited for her.  Sarah had been in a domestic violence relationship for years—she said the idea of standing up for herself had never been an option.  But here she was, helping a total stranger out by paying forward what she’d learned about assertiveness.  It would be pretty cool if the story stopped there, but it didn’t!  Because then Sarah said…

“The guy got off his cell-phone call and went right back to harassing the girl.  AND SHE TURNED TO HIM AND SAID, ‘I need you to stop harassing me or I’ll call security!’”

“WHAT HAPPENED?” we all asked in the group.

“He LEFT HER ALONE!” said Sarah… and she laughed in pride and amazement.  And we all broke into applause.  I will never forget her—her courage and her open heart.

Being a good bystander can be so many things.  ONE thing it can be is not only helpful and healing to the person who is being harassed… it can be empowering and healing for the bystander AS WELL.

Do YOU have any stories about a time you stood up for somebody else?

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