10 Ideas for Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Month 2011

April 1, 2011

Do you care about ending sexual assault and helping survivors? I know many of you do because my 2010 post listing 10 ideas for action has been well viewed! Well, I care, too and fortunately for us there are tons of resources, activities, and initiatives this month (and most are applicable beyond the month) that make it really easy for us to do something.

Before I give you 10 of those resources and initiatives (most of them are new for 2011), here is a powerful excerpt from President Obama’s proclamation for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month 2011:

“Despite reforms to our legal system, sexual violence remains pervasive and largely misunderstood.  Nearly one in six American women will experience an attempted or completed rape at some point in her life, and for some groups, rates of sexual violence are even higher.  Almost one in three American Indian and Alaska Native women will be sexually assaulted.  Young women ages 16 to 24 are at greatest risk, and an alarming number of young women are sexually assaulted while in college.  Too many men and boys are also affected.  With each new victim and each person still suffering from an attack, we are called with renewed purpose to respond to and rid our Nation of all forms of sexual violence…

Each victim of sexual assault represents a sister or a daughter, a nephew or a friend.  We must break the silence so no victim anguishes without resources or aid in their time of greatest need.”

So what can we do about it?

1. Believe/help survivors. I loved a tweet earlier this week from Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER). At minimum, they noted, believe survivors when they tell you. I’ll add, visit the website of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network to find information to help you help the survivor. And to find information to help yourself.

2. Find help. If you are a survivor who isn’t sure where to turn to or how to get help, I highly recommend visiting the RAINN website. I volunteered with them for 2.5 years and applaud their work. You can find information about a phone or online hotline and information about recovery.

  • Are you in the military? RAINN has a new helpline called Safe Helpline specifically for survivors in the military.
  • Are you male? Visit the website 1 in 6 for resources specifically for you.

3. Play BINGO.  The Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs developed a new thought and conversation provoking game of Bingo! They filled each square with ways in which participants can be part of the solution to end sexual violence.

4. Use the arts. Take part or organize arts-based initiatives to raise awareness about sexual assault. Four examples of initiatives include:

  • The Clothesline Project, an initiative to bear witness to violence against women. Women affected by violence decorate a shirt and hang the shirt on a clothesline to be viewed by others as testimony to the problem of men’s violence against women.
  • V-Day event offers several performance and film screening options for groups to implement in their community in February, March, and April. The purpose of these events is to raise awareness about violence against women and girls as well as raise money for local beneficiaries that are working to end violence. There is no theater or producing experience necessary. Visit the V-Day website to learn how to organize a V-Day event.
  • Story of a Rape Survivor (SOARS) is an award winning multimedia performance you can bring to your community that entertains as well as educates the audience about sexual assault prevention. Featuring the music of Nina Simone,Maxwell, and Sade, SOARS tells one woman’s story about how she reclaimed her body, sexuality, and self-esteem after being sexually assaulted in college. SOARS is a cutting-edge theatrical experience that stars a diverse cast of women, combining photographs, dance, spoken-word poetry and music as a way to educate about healing from sexual violence.
  • By wearing a white ribbon, White Ribbon Campaign members make a personal pledge to “never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls.” You can order materials to help challenge the community to speak out on the issue, learn about sexual violence, and raise public awareness.

5. Wear jeansMake a social statement by wearing jeans on a designated day in April (this year it is April 27) through Denim Day in LA & USA as a visible means of protest against misconceptions that surround sexual assault. Order their Denim Day Action Kit and raise awareness at your workplace, neighborhood, or community. Encourage each person who participates to donate one dollar to Denim Day to fund prevention programming. (I just ordered my kit.)

6. Make a pledge. This month, Students Active for Ending Rape encourages college students, alumni, parents, faculty, and administrators to transform their awareness into activism by pledging concrete action toward ending college sexual assault.

7. Tweet or Write Facebook Posts. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center provides a variety of resources each year for Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Month, including free reports and manuals and campaign materials. This year, they’ve created social networkers with 30 suggested tweets/posts to publish, one per day in April. (I just tweeted the suggestion for April 1.)

8. March. Organize or participate in a Take Back the Night March in your community or on campus and make a statement that women have the right to be in public and to go about their lives without the risk of sexual violence. Order a kit with resources for the event.

9. Support consent. One fun way to work to prevent sexual assault is to talk about and emphasize consent in all sexual activities. Here are two amazing initiatives you can bring to your campus or community to do that:

  • The Consensual Project is an interactive, sex-positive, fun workshop during which participants can learn why consensual hooking up is hotter hooking up. College students are an ideal audience for this workshop.
  • The Line is a film that explores the intersection of sexual identity, power, and violence. How do we negotiate our boundaries as sexually liberated women? How much are we desensitized to sexual violence? Through conversations with football players, educators, survivors of violence, prostitutes, and attorneys, this personal film explores the “grey area” and the elusive line of consent. This April, 16 participating Hollaback! chapters will show The Line and host community events, screenings and parties in cities around the globe.

10. Do something about campus sexual assault. The rates of campus sexual assault are quite high, yet very rarely are there adequate prevention programs or proper channels for handling perpetrators. AAUW and SAFER created a Program in a Box toolkit with ideas for concrete action that can lead to concrete change, tailored for audiences of students, faculty, alumni, and parents of students. Download the free toolkit and find out what you can do to make campuses safer for all.

Take one minute to join a virtual campaign to help women in Congo

December 8, 2010

Around the world, public places are less safe and welcoming for women than for men. This often is because of street harassment but it’s also because of rape or the fear of rape. In no region on earth is the reality of rape more prevalent than in the Congo, the worst place on earth to be a woman.

For the last several months I’ve become more educated about and involved in addressing the atrocities in the Congo, from participating in programs by Women for Women International and Enough,to meeting/brainstorming action with East Congolese immigrants who have lived and seen first-hand the atrocities in their communities, to reading Lisa Shannon’s book A Thousand Sisters: My journey into the worst place on earth to be a woman.

For six hours yesterday after work, I joined Lisa, who is also the founder of Run for Congo Women, and several other courageous women and men outside the State Department in Washington, DC, as part of public outcry to ask the State Department to take more action in Congo, including to create a Congo Plan.

Lisa and several others are camping out all week, 24/7 (in very cold weather: at night the windchill has been single digits) and also are orchestrating a virtual protest. They are asking individuals to take photos of themselves holding signs with messages to the State Department and posting those photos on Facebook.

12-7-10 around 8 p.m. outside the State Deptartment

Lisa is meeting with members of the State Department today and she hopes to meet with Secretary Clinton next week. Regardless of whether or not she can do this in person or will have to drop it off for Sect. Clinton, Lisa will print all of the photos from the virtual protest and put them in a booklet for Sect. Clinton so she knows how many people care about this issue.

It literally only takes a minute to join the Virtual Campaign and another couple of minutes to add your photo message if you have easy access to a digital camera and computer or to a camera/scanner/computer. (And if you want to do more or want to do something else, check out the organizations I linked to above to find out how you can become involved).

Out Cry for Congo

Here is the full information about the Virtual Campaign:

Date: Monday, December 6, 2010 – 12:15am – Friday, December 10, 2010 – 12:15am
Location: Washington, DC

With 5.4 million Congolese dead as of January 2008, it is high time to treat Congo as the emergency it is!

-The State Dept has told us repeatedly they need a public outcry in order to act.  This is it!

-Since August, we have hammered the State Department and prompted 21 members of the U.S. House of Representatives to write a “Dear Colleague” letter to Secretary Clinton urging well-vetted, stronger U.S. policies and international leadership to help stabilize Congo.

-A few dedicated women will be spending a long, cold, sleepless week outside of the State Dept. in D.C., from 6 AM Dec. 6th thru 11:59 PM Dec. 10th, demanding a comprehensive Congo Plan.  And we are calling on people across the country to join us in a virtual campaign supporting those efforts in the cold.

-For background on our well vetted policy asks, see www.athousandsisters.com/blog:   a)  Dear Colleague Letter to Secretary Clinton;  b) Eastern Congo Initiative White Paper; c) Nicholas Kristof’s 4-point plan for Congo d) anything on the Enough Project or Raise Hope for Congo websites.

-Our efforts will count ONLY IF YOU, YOUR FAMILY & FRIENDS join us virtually on the internet!  Please help us create an internet firestorm of support for Congo!  The time is now! Take a photo of yourself and your message to the State Dept and upload it here: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Outcry-for-Congo/166647026706786.

Terrible predator, good bystander, useless police

July 10, 2010

[Story may be triggering]

I was walking to the subway on the way to class (college) at 930 am last week. On a tuesday. An older gentleman, maybe in his mid-50’s, appeared to be on the phone, but started getting closer to me commenting about my breasts and my face saying into the phone “this is what i like right here, these are the kinds of girls i want to f*ck right here. this ones’ gonna get it”.

i started walking faster. i was shocked that the street was full of people but he would say such disgusting things. he followed me, saying similar things for two more blocks. I didn’t want him to follow me into the subway station, because i’d be trapped with him down there. So i finally worked up the nerve and turned around and yelled, “Can you just leave me alone??? you’re scaring me and you’re disgusting!”.

at about the same time i started screaming, a street sweeper pulled over and the driver jumped out and ran up to the pervert. the pervert started screaming about how he was going to rape me, leaned forward, and pulled my shirt down almost tearing it off. at this point, the street sweeper grabbed him in a head lock and a grocery owner ran outside saying he had called 9-11.

i was late for class, and the police refused to take a report saying nothing ‘serious’ had happened. i spent the day in class shaking. took an exam almost crying. it was awful. thank god for the man who intervened while everyone stood by staring.

– anonymous

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Include your location and it will be added to the Street Harassment Map.

Skinny jeans will end rape…?

May 1, 2010

A defense lawyer in Australia has devised a solution for ending rape: skinny jeans. Like courts in South Korea (2008) and Italy (1999) that ruled on similar cases, an Australian jury acquitted an alleged rapist based on the defense lawyer’s claim that his client could not have removed the woman’s skinny jeans without her help and therefore he did not rape her.

Of course, in this particular case, the woman the man raped disagrees. But too bad for her, right? It’s her fault, right? What was she thinking wearing provocative skinny jeans in the first place? And good, her rapist is free! He can go attack her or other women again. Yippee!

Umm, no. Everything is wrong with this outcome and the logic behind it.

Clothes can be ripped or forced off of people or people can be coerced into taking off their own clothes. People can be engaged in consensual foreplay or related sexual acts but if one of them takes it further without the other person’s consenst, then they are entering the land of rape. There are just many variables – with or without skinny jeans – that can result in rape.

And let me ask a question. What if a man was wearing skinny jeans and he got robbed? Would he be disbelieved because of his pants? After all, he is the one who must have taken his wallet out of his jeans.

Let me answer my question. I doubt anyone would argue or believe that the kind of pants he was wearing would eliminate the possibility of a robbery. But that’s the kind of frightening logic at work in this case.

So why are there people who believe women are to blame/are lying when women are wearing skinny jeans and men are raping them?  It seems like only with crimes of sexual violence do such absurd victim blaming excuse come flying out. And that’s a big problem and a barrier to working to end sexual violence. Now women whom men have raped will probably be even less likely to report the rape if they know that their clothing will be under scrutiny and could result in the rapist walking free. And that is wrong.

Check out the work of Jeans for Justice, a nonprofit organization based in San Diego that was founded in response to a similar jeans-related argument in a 1999 Italian rape trial. Their work focuses on how rape has nothing to do with what a survivor wears.  They use fashion as a vehicle to speak out against sexual violence and raise funds to promote prevention through awareness and education, by creating partnerships with cutting edge events, designers, innovators, survivors and advocates. It’s stories like this one in Australia that will keep them busy. Find out how you can get involved.

Metro rape reports “got lost in the shuffle”

April 2, 2010

I take the Washington, DC, metro to and from work every weekday, so I have general and personal outrage over this report from the Washington Post:

“There have been four rapes on Metro property this year, up from one last year, but unlike assaults reported elsewhere in the Washington area, at least two of the crimes were not immediately made public.

Metro officials gave differing accounts of why the public was not informed about the crimes. Metro spokeswoman Cathy Asato said on Tuesday that the police deliberately withheld information on two assaults that occurred in the parking garage of Largo Town Center in February as they searched for suspects. However, Peter Benjamin, chairman of Metro’s board of directors, said information on the attacks “got lost in the shuffle” during the February snowstorms.”

Once there is a report, how hard is it to notify the public so they can take necessary precautions/be aware of potential threats in that area?

HollaBack DC! just wrapped up Public Transit Awareness Month in March and they have more to say on this disappointing news story.