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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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Safety Planning for Survivors in a Digital World

Violence Against Women in a Digital World training!Last week, some of our staff had the opportunity to attend the Violence Against Women in a Digital World training hosted by the City of San Jose and the Santa Clara County Office of Women’s Policy. This training featured presenters from the National Network to End Domestic Violence. It was a fantastic opportunity for our staff, so we wanted to share some of what we learned with all you!

Many abusers and perpetrators may misuse technology to harass, stalk or harm survivors. The abuse can range from sending harassing messages to survivors over Facebook to using GPS or Spyware to monitor survivors. Abusers may also deny survivors access to technology (for example, taking away cell phones or computers) to isolate them from family, friends and resources.

We live in an increasingly technological world. Access to jobs, housing, credit, and more requires us to interact with technology, so the misuse of technology can have major impacts on the wellbeing of survivors. For many people, including survivors, it isn’t possible to stop using technology. This is why it is important for survivors and their loved ones to strategize how they can use technology safely.

Below are some general tips to reduce your risks (whether you are a survivor or loved one) while using technology. Please note, this is not an exhaustive list but rather a few tips to get started.

  • Check your privacy and security settings. Go through any privacy and security settings on any devices you use, as well as any websites you have accounts on. Many devices, apps and websites have “public” set as a default, so it’s important to always check your privacy and security settings.
  • Make sure Bluetooth and Location settings are either limited or turned off. Most phones and smart devices have Bluetooth or Location settings that can be adjusted. Be sure to check if unknown devices are synced with your phone or tablet.
  • Opt out of sharing personal information online. Many websites ask for identifying information; however users are not always required to give this information. If a website requires you to enter personal information, check to see whether this information will appear publicly. Be mindful of what identifying information you post online.
  • Use different usernames and profile pictures. When signing up for multiple online accounts, consider using different usernames and profile pictures for each account. This will make it more difficult for people to search for you online.
  • Talk with your family and friends before they post something about you online. Many social media websites, such as Facebook and Instagram, encourage users to share their location and ‘tag’ who they are with. Tell your family and friends whether or not you want them to tag you in posts or share photos of you. Discuss what information you are comfortable with your loved ones sharing online.
  • Use a safer computer/device. If you believe your computer, phone or electronic device may be monitored, try using a different device that the perpetrator would not have access to – such as a trusted friend’s phone or a computer at a local library. When you are on a safer computer/device, change passwords and usernames.
  • Connect with an advocate. If you or your loved one is a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, contact an agency that provides services to survivors of domestic violence/sexual assault. If your partner is misusing technology to harass, stalk or harm you, there is help!

Remember, these tips may not work for everyone. It is important to trust your instincts and do what works best for you. You know what will work or won’t work in your situation.

For more safety tips, we recommend checking out the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s resources on technological abuse: http://nnedv.org/projects/safetynet.html

You can also contact Tri-Valley Haven for shelter and support services for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, homelessness and hunger. Call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-884-8119 or visit our website at www.trivalleyhaven.org

 


3a92488Jessie is the new Sexual Assault Advocate on staff at Tri-Valley Haven. She was one of the staff members who had the opportunity to attend the Violence Against Women in a Digital World in San Jose last week.

#YesAllWomen Blog Roundup…

yesallwomen_largeYou know, I’ve been pondering so many blog posts related to the #YesAllWomen hashtag  (Yes, all women experience feeling unsafe because of their gender, yes all women have experienced harassment, etc.) that has grown out of the Santa Barbara shootings and the discussion of cultural misogyny that has grown around it.  I keep searching Twitter and reading the tweets from thousands and thousands of people, men and women, and their links to articles and blog posts.  It’s been an obsession the last few days.  And every time I think I have something to say… I find a post that says it better, more cogently and more coherently than I could.

As I type this blog entry, I can look to my typing stand on my work desk and see a large stack of what we call “gold forms” at my office.  Gold forms are the forms we fill out whenever we receive a call or request for help from a sexual assault survivor.  Part of my job every month is to compile all the sad, disheartening, tragic, enraging statistics from these forms.  Some of these women and men I have met.  Some I have not.  But their stories are spelled out in brief and spartan handwriting on the double-sided pages.  Every month, the gold forms pour in.  Every. Single. Month.

And you know what?  While some survivors are men – and deserve the same support and and belief and resources that women do! – most are women.  Most… are always women.  And so for that reason, I also say:  #yesallwomen.  After that, my ability to speak gracefully on the topic degrades a bit in comparison to the bloggers below, and so I think what I will do here is try to link to a few of these posts and recommend strongly that you read them if you’ve not already.

There is something fundamentally destructive about the way we socialize young men and boys.  There is something fundamentally destructive about the way we socialize young girls and women.  There is something broken in our cultural dialogue around gender, gender roles, sex, sexual roles… there is something broken.  That something broken contributes to sexual assault… to domestic violence… and to the murders in Santa Barbara.*

*Please note that I am not saying it is the only contributing factor.  One article I read quite rightly points out that the Santa Barbara tragedy can focus as a looking glass, with our perspective on what “caused” it shifting as our own focus or bias shifts – one could implicate gun culture, male socialization, mental health, and numerous other factors and probably not be wrong in any of these cases and more.

Rather than focus this set of links on the mass killing itself, I would like to look instead at the very popular Twitter hashtag and responses to it, and what this all says about the current state-of-the-society.Funny-Not-all-men-are-like-that-meme-t-shirts-Hoodies

The first of the blog posts I’m linking to takes to task the common protest of “Not all men are like that!” that crops up whenever discussions turn to misogyny or street harassment or societal ways in which women are made to feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or simply bodies without minds and spirits inside them.  In fact, #NotAllMen has become a common hashtag used to contradict the #YesAllWomen hashtag.  While it is undeniably (thank goodness!) true that, indeed, “not all men are like that”… it can derail a very important and necessary conversation about how our culture expects men to behave that does and can contribute to violence.

This first post is written by a self-described white, cis-gender male.  He really gets to the heart of why “Not all men are like that!” is an unhelpful and distracting response to a very real issue.  I recommend it highly.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/05/27/not_all_men_how_discussing_women_s_issues_gets_derailed.html

Over the weekend, as the discussion across Twitter turned to these horrible events, a lot of men started tweeting this, saying “not all men are like that.” It’s not an unexpected response. However, it’s also not a helpful one.

This next blog post talks specifically about the idea of nerd-culture and misogyny, but really what it’s discussing is the way we raise boys (who, of course, become men) to feel that their role in life is expected to involve the pursuit and conquest of women sexually at the expense of seeing women as the protagonists of their own stories and their own lives, with the power and right to make their own decisions:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/27/your-princess-is-in-another-castle-misogyny-entitlement-and-nerds.html

I’ve heard and seen the stories that those of you who followed the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter have seen—women getting groped at cons, women getting vicious insults flung at them online, women getting stalked by creeps in college and told they should be “flattered.” I’ve heard Elliot Rodger’s voice before. I was expecting his manifesto to be incomprehensible madness—hoping for it to be—but it wasn’t. It’s a standard frustrated angry geeky guy manifesto, except for the part about mass murder.

yesallmenThis post by acclaimed science fiction writer John Scalzi on his blog goes into a sensitive and interesting dissection of the levels of discrimination in society and in the individual that pertains not only to sexism or misogyny, but racism, homophobia, etc.

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/04/17/the-four-levels-of-discrimination-and-you-and-me-too/

I’ve been talking about sexism recentlymy own and others — and I have to say I’ve found it increasingly exasperating to see the massively defensive response of “not all men are sexist” that inevitably follows. One, because it’s wrong (more on that in a bit), and two, because the more I see it, the more it’s obvious that it’s a derail, as in, “Holy shit any discussion of sexism makes me uncomfortable so I want to make it clear I am not sexist so I’ll just demand recognition that not all men are sexist so I can be lumped in with those men who are not sexist and I can be okay with myself.”

Finally, because sometimes a picture (or a cartoon) can be worth a thousand words, especially when it can connect with some humor as well as a visual, I leave you with two cartoons by Robot Hugs:

 

Bystander Intervention – She’s Doing It Right (You Go, Shelby!)

I just wanted to cross-post a selection from a blog of one of our great advocate volunteers, Shelby Henry.  She has graciously allowed us to reference her blog from time to time, and a few days ago, I came across this amazing story.  Shelby, you are an amazing woman and thank you for the story.  You illustrate what it means to be an active bystander not only in your advocacy work but even in your day-to-day life. 🙂  (Oh, and the emphasis in the post is mine, not Shelby’s, but I could not resist highlighting it.  Hey, this is a work blog, after all!)

Shelby Henry is an advocate at Tri-Valley Haven, a passionate blogger, a dolphin rights activist, and an all-around amazing person!

Shelby Henry is an advocate at Tri-Valley Haven, a passionate blogger, a dolphin rights activist, and an all-around amazing person!

Yesterday I witnessed a man assaulting a woman, in broad daylight and on a busy street. When I drove by I only saw for maybe a second what was going on and I think that my brain tried to convince me it wasn’t what it looked like. They were probably messing around. It’s 11 AM, you would have to be insane to attack a woman in broad daylight on this busy street with all these cars driving by. I kept driving. I made it about two streets further before I finally decided it was worth at least turning around just to ease my mind and confirm that the woman was alright and nothing was going on. The woman was not alright and the man had in fact been attacking her. He was grabbing her by the hair as she tried unsuccessfully to swat him away. I turned my car in his direction and floored it. I screeched to a stop right before ramming into the sidewalk and started revving my engine at him, honking my horn, and screaming that the cops were on their way (he was probably really intimidated until he heard Etta James playing through my open car window…). The woman got away and took off, barefoot and in pajamas. The police arrived within just a couple of minutes and handled the situation.

I was horrified to think that I had almost continued about my day without going back to verify what was going on. If you’ve taken a basic psychology or sociology class you’ve probably heard of a phenomenon called the bystander effect. Basically it is when bystanders witness a crime or emergency and do nothing, either out of fear or because they think someone else will call authorities. I think that five months ago, before my training with the Tri-Valley Haven, I would have kept driving. I would have convinced myself it was nothing and that I was just crazy.

Sometimes I think people worry that they will report something incorrectly or that it won’t be worth the officer’s time to check something out. What we don’t realize is that the police are here to serve us and to protect us; it is their duty and it is what they get up everyday to do. I think that as citizens it should be our own duty to look out for each other and keep our towns as safe as possible. We have a responsibility to help police maintain city safety, as they are unable to be everywhere at all times. If you see something that catches your eye and it doesn’t seem right, call the non-emergency number in your city. Err on the side of caution, because it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Art For Healing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Special Thank You for VAWA (Spreading the Love from YouTube to You!)

The “Herstory” of the Anti-Rape Movement

Last week, I talked a little bit about early women’s rights, Sojourner Truth, and some of the beginning threads that led to the tapestry of the anti-rape movement.  This week, I wanted to cross-post an excellent and short overview article on the history (or herstory, if you will!) of the Rape Crisis Movement.  The article is written by Gillian Greensite, Director of Rape Prevention Education at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  While I toyed with totally trying to write it all up in my own voice, I realized that really the best thing to do would be to post it in her words, with citation, rather than try to reinvent a perfectly good wheel.

Next week, I hope to talk a bit about the founding of my own “mother” organization, the Tri-Valley Haven, and some of the events and people that shaped it. Women making history!  It can be on scales both large and small!

The article follows below:

The earliest efforts to systematically confront and organize against rape began in the 1870s when African-American women, most notably Ida B. Wells, took leadership roles in organizing anti-lynching

The negro has suffered far more from the commission of this crime against the women of his race by white men than the white race has ever suffered through his crimes.

The negro has suffered far more from the commission of this crime against the women of his race by white men than the white race has ever suffered through his crimes.

campaigns. The courage of these women in the face of hatred and violence is profoundly inspiring. Their efforts led to the formation of the Black Women’s Club movement in the late 1890s and laid the groundwork for the later establishment of a number of national organizations, such as the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Although women continued individual acts of resistance throughout the first half of the twentieth century, the next wave of anti-rape activities began in the late 1960s and early 1970s on the heels of the civil rights and student movements.

The involvement of other women of color accelerated in the mid-1970s. Organizing efforts brought national attention to the imprisonment for murder of a number of women of color who defended themselves against the men who raped and assaulted them. The plight of Inez Garcia in 1974, Joanne Little in 1975, Yvonne Wanrow in 1976, and Dessie Woods in 1976, all victims of rape or assault who fought back, killed their assailants, and were imprisoned, brought the issue of rape into political organizations that had not historically focused on rape. Dessie Woods was eventually freed in 1981, after a long and difficult organizing effort.

The earliest rape crisis centers were established around 1972 in major cities and politically active towns such as Berkeley, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. As more and more women began sharing their experiences of rape in consciousness-raising groups, breaking the silence that had kept women from avenues of support as well as from seeing the broader political nature of rape, a grassroots movement began to take shape. The establishment of rape crisis centers by rape survivors brought large numbers of middle-class white women into political activism. Although women of color were still involved, their visibility and efforts were made largely invisible in the absence of critical attention to racism within the movement and by white women’s taking the center stage. Gradually the rape crisis movement became to be and to be seen as a white women’s movement.

During the latter half of the 1970s, due to increasing frustration regarding the exclusion of women of color, a number of radical women of color and white women within the movement began arguing for and organizing for an anti-racist perspective and practice. Tensions increased and the dialogue was frequently bitter, but the groundwork was laid for confronting racism within the movement. These efforts are ongoing and need constant attention. The number of women of color in the movement grew visibly between 1976 and 1980. Women of color are now major figures and leaders within the movement, but the dominance of white women within the power structures of most rape crisis centers is still a reality.

The character of the early rape crisis centers was significantly different from that of their counterparts today. The early centers tended to be grassroots collectives of women, predominantly survivors of rape, which may or may not have had an actual building or center, with no outside funding, making decisions by consensus with no hierarchy or board of directors. Many saw their anti-rape work as political work, organizing for broader social change. They increasingly made connections between the issues of sexism, racism, classism, and homophobia. Many articulated a radical political perspective, which often unwittingly excluded all but younger white women who were neither mothers nor fulltime workers.

take-back-the-night-logoThe tactics used to address rape were often creative. Confrontations, in which a woman supported by her friends would confront and hold a man accountable in a public setting, were a feature of the more radical collectives. Description lists of men who raped were published, and there was general suspicion toward the police—which was well-deserved in many cases. Self-defense classes began to be offered and “Take Back the Night” marches were organized.The first march was organized in San Francisco in 1978, bringing together 5,000 women from thirty states. A huge march followed in 1979 in New York. This heralded the beginning of an event that has spread across the country. Today, “Take Back the Night” marches are organized in many communities and at most major universities in the United States as well as in other countries.

The 1980s saw the beginnings of anti-rape education spreading into universities and an increase in feminist academic research around the issue of rape. Myths about rape were seriously critiqued and the facts supported by a growing body of research. A clearer picture of the extent and seriousness of rape began to emerge. Heated debates centered on a need for sensitivity in language and awareness of the politics of language, as illustrated by the successful effort to replace the word victim with survivor. The hard work of so many dedicated feminists, most of them survivors, began to bear fruit. An understanding of the reality of acquaintance rape grew. The extent and seriousness of child sexual abuse began to be uncovered. New laws were passed that attempted to better serve survivors; police departments were educated to improve their training and protocols; a few hospitals began to provide special examining rooms and trained nurse examiners.

Not everything was positive in the 1980s. The decade also saw a backlash against the reality of rape being exposed by the anti-rape movement. The media elevated to prominence those writers who challenged the research and statistics about acquaintance rape.(3) Funding for rape crisis centers became scarce. Meanwhile, many of the politically active radical feminists had graduated, disbanded, or been forced to find paid work. The movement became more fragmented. Many centers moved politically to the center to secure support and funding from established sources.

A look at the anti-rape movement of the 1990s and a comparison of writings from the late seventies to the late nineties reveal some significant changes. The dominance of a shared political analysis of rape and a strategy for social change has eroded. It still exists, but in fewer and fewer places. In some ways it has been absorbed. For example, many aware students and other women and men assume that rape is an act of power without it having to be spelled out for them. The changes in the anti-rape movement also reflect a decline in the radical politics of all social activism.

The establishment of rape crisis centers across the nation is a testament to the hard work of countless women. The resources available to survivors from such centers is without question one of the CALCASA-Logo_350x228most significant and tangible results of the anti-rape movement. As is common within all movements, the daily challenge of providing a critical service with limited resources makes maintaining a conscious political analysis very difficult. The existence of a national organization, the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCASA), and a statewide coalition, the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA), from the early days has helped to keep a political edge and has provided critical resources and connections to often-struggling local programs and centers.

However, many within the movement feel there needs to be more discussion and debate at the local, state, and national levels around important political issues affecting the future direction of anti-rape work. Some examples of these issues that need careful analysis are the effects of the increasing state and federal legislation concerning rape; the redefinition of the issue of rape away from a political model toward a health model; the strategy for building a bigger movement toward the elimination of rape and the role of rape crisis centers within this effort; the impact of the growing number of males within the movement.

Who Would You Want to Help You If You Had Been Raped?

It just happened again. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a young woman’s report of having been raped on the UC Santa Cruz campus in broad daylight earlier this month was determined to be a false report, and within three hours, almost 100 people had weighed in on the “comments” section to express their opinions as to why women falsely report sexual assault, and what the punishment for false reports should be.

Disturbingly, several readers opined that the woman should be sentenced to “work with real rape victims” in order to gain an understanding of how serious a charge rape is. Do these commenters seriously feel that it would be therapeutic for a person who has been traumatized by sexual assault to spend time with someone who is being punished for filing a false rape report? Why does “teaching a lesson” to the bogus victim take precedence over providing specialized services to survivors of sexual assault to assist them in recovering emotionally from their trauma, and providing support and advocacy as they negotiate the systems of law enforcement, the courts, health care and social services? And why is working with rape survivors perceived to be a punishment rather than a respected calling that requires enormous dedication, empathy and knowledge?

The volunteers at Tri-Valley Haven’s Rape Crisis Center have all completed a 65-hour state-approved training to prepare them to provide crisis counseling, advocacy, case management or professional psychotherapy to survivors. It is a comprehensive and emotionally difficult training, and not everyone who begins the training completes it. Sometimes trainees discover that their own emotions are so triggered by the content of the training that they are afraid they will break down in tears themselves when they should be providing support and reassurance. Sometimes our staff observes that a trainee persists in holding victims responsible for their rapes by questioning why they allowed themselves to get into a dangerous situation, or in dictating what a survivor “must” do rather than empowering a survivor to determine what she or he feels is the best course of action.

When we see that a trainee is struggling to contain their own emotions, or that they propose interventions that are detrimental to survivors, staff meets with that person to express our concerns and ask for feedback from the trainee. Depending on the response, the person may need additional training and role-playing with staff before being certified to work with survivors, they may be re-directed to other volunteer opportunities at the Haven that do not involve providing client services or, if they have a serious conflict with our agency values, they may be asked to leave the training and not volunteer in any capacity.

Our first responsibility is to provide the highest quality of services to the survivors who turn to us for support in the aftermath of trauma. These services can only be provided by volunteers and staff who have a passion for the work and are motivated to support and empower survivors. It is not a job for court-ordered convicts who may be struggling with mental health issues of their own.

Tri-Valley Haven provides community education about the realities of sexual assault, the services the Haven provides, sexual assault prevention and self-defense for women and girls. To schedule a presentation for your school, workplace, club or place of worship, please call our community building at (925) 449-5845. Together we build a world without violence.

Vicki Thompson

Director of Domestic Violence Services

FINALLY! The Violence Against Women Act has passed!

And we DID get it done!

And we DID get it done!

So, there have been a number of posts here on Prevention, Power & Peace about the importance of the Violence Against Women act and the shenanigans that have endangered it and hung it up in partisan politics for 500 days of bickering and stalling.  I’m glad to report that this morning, it passed through the House and is finally reauthorized with a vote of 286 to 138.  Even better, the alternate Republican version of the act, which struck out protections for LGBT, for immigrant women, and for Native American women, got consigned to the circular file of history.

Just for a bit of perspective, one reason that the Native American women portion is so important is this (taken from a Washington Post article):

Before the end of the last Congress, negotiations stalled over the Native American provision. That is, giving tribal courts limited authority to prosecute non-Native Americans accused of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes against Native American women on Indian reservations. As I wrote last December, under the old VAWA, a non-Native American man who beats up, sexually assaults or even kills a Native American woman on tribal land would basically get away with it because tribal courts do not have jurisdiction to prosecute non-Indian defendants. In addition, federal and state law enforcement have limited resources to pursue cases and might be hours away from a reservation.

The reauthorized and expanded VAWA also extends protections to other groups that are among the most vulnerable such as human trafficking victims.  It will help reduce violence on college campuses, and help rape victims by making sure that their rape kits are processed–there is currently a tremendous backlog on processing, leaving many victims of sexual assault in a limbo where evidence that could be used to bring their attacker to justice languishes without being analyzed.  Every year since VAWA began in 1994, it has passed without fuss and with expanded protections… until this latest time.

In America, we have long stood by the principle that the protections of the law are not meant just for some. The law should be there to keep all people safe. That is why VAWA’s expansions to protect vulnerable populations such as Native American victims, LGBT victims, and immigrant victims are so terribly, integrally important.

Today is a good day–a day of hope for those victimized by sexual assault and domestic violence.  Today is a day that America finally FINALLY said, “We support you.  We hear you.  We believe you.  You have worth in our eyes.  Your pain is real.  You deserve justice.”

FINALLY.

To My Fellow Survivors

Your Story MattersThe following letter, To My Fellow Survivors, was written by an amazing survivor who recently participated in a support group at Tri-Valley Haven. We are so grateful she has given us permission to publish this:

My rape happened over ten years ago and for ten years, I thought I was fine. I told myself to suck it up, that it was not as bad as some other stories that I had heard, that I was being selfish and to not let it affect me, that I deserved it because I was not good enough.  These thoughts replayed in my mind over and over again.  They became deep-rooted in my soul.  I went through these ten years making bad choice after bad choice—from an eating disorder to self-injury, promiscuity, stealing, lying, anger, and depression, you name it.  I thought there was something wrong with me as to why I could just not be happy.  Why was I making these unhealthy choices?  I knew that I had all this anger built up inside me, but I thought that I had dealt with this part of my past, so when my therapist mentioned that she wanted me to go to a support group, I was very hesitant to say the least.  I was willing to try anything, though, because I was at my breaking point.  I made the call.  I thought, even if I do not like it, I can get out of work early on Fridays.

               I was really nervous my first class.  I did not want to talk to these people that I had never met about something so personal; plus, I do not trust anyone.  The more you let people in, the more they can use that against you.  I had learned this too many times.  I went week after week, did my homework and opened up as much as I could.  We then received an assignment to create a collage of how we felt at the time of the rape, and how we wanted to feel as a survivor.  I was not a fan of this.  I felt it was stupid, childish, and a waste of my time, but I was going to do it and prove myself right.

I clipped out a pile of sayings in magazines that jumped out at me, not knowing which side I would put them on.  Once I completed that task, I just started to glue them on.  I felt nothing, no emotion, like this was just a school project for a grade.  After I was done, I looked at my board and was astonished.  My “bad side” truly represented that horrible night—the pain, the horror, the sadness and the depression—everything I felt then and at that moment ten years later.  It hit me.  Somehow, looking at those words that were lost within me made it actually real.  I finally felt something other than anger.  I felt sadness for the girl I was, the girl that I would never be again, the girl that lost a piece of herself that night.

I then turned the board over and looked at my “survivor side.”  I started crying.  Is this really what I am supposed to feel like as a woman, as a survivor?  Proud, Strong, Courageous.  Even if I could not be or feel all of the things I had glued on that board, the possibility of being a little free from this pain and darkness is what I wanted.  This was probably one of my first, “AH HA” moments.  I think after this project is when I started to open up a little more to the other women in the group.

Then the teacher told us that the next assignment was going to be writing our story.  “Um, WHAT?  Not going to happen.”  What could possibly come out of doing this?  I was very skeptical. I know what happened to me.  Why do I need to write it out?

Needless to say, I sucked it up and started writing.  As I wrote, I again felt nothing.  It was like I was writing someone else’s story.  This is stupid, I told myself.  I had gone through years, telling the same version of my story—the bare minimum with friends and family who were concerned.  Wasn’t that enough?  It wasn’t until I actually started writing details of what he did to me that I started to feel sadness and anger.  I finally sat there and realized fully what had happened, what he did, what he said, what he made me do.  I remembered things that I had forgotten about, things that I think my mind made me forget until I was ready to process them.  I did not think it would be ten years later, but I know now that I wasn’t ready then.

I then had to find a safe person to read this to.  That was the scariest part.  I had never confided in anyone about the gory details. I kept those parts locked away inside me for so long.  No one knew the shame I felt, the guilt I placed on myself for not fighting back, for freezing, for letting someone do this to me, but writing my story and reading it to my counselor proved something to me that day.  It proved that I said, “No” numerous times; it proved that I did what I had to do to Survive.  As hard as this was to swallow, it did give me a little bit of peace.  I was able to forgive myself.  It made me open up to the women in the group, to care about them.  It was amazing to actually be somewhere I could just be myself and know that I would not be judged, to actually be surrounded with people that knew the pain I felt.  I had felt alone for so long.

As this course is coming to an end, I am confused with how I feel. I am happy that I was allowed this time to really look inside me and face some of my demons, but I am saddened to part ways with these women that I feel truly understand me.  I still have a lot of work ahead of me.  Am I fully healed?  I do not think I will ever be, but understanding who I am makes it a little easier.

As you read this, I want you to know that this will be hard.  I will not sugar-coat this process.  Will you want to quit?  Probably, but some of the hardest things in life have the greatest reward, and growing as a person is one of those rewards.  Just remember, you are strong, you are courageous, you are worthy, you are loved, and YOU ARE A SURVIVOR!!!

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