Together We Can Take Back the Night

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Guest Post by: Liz Bayer, LLPC, First Response/Court Advocate, HAVEN

Many underestimate the impact of sexual violence in their communities. People want to believe that it happens somewhere out there in the world, and although it’s tragic, it’s not happening to those around them. When in reality, it is estimated that that every 2 minutes another American is sexually assaulted in the United States (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network – RAINN). Chances are someone you know has been affected, as it is a social issue that impacts people of all social classes, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and communities.

If so many people are affected, why don’t I hear more about it?

Many survivors feel uncomfortable coming forward. Our society has a way of placing blame on survivors of sexual violence, when in truth 100% of the blame should be directed instead to the perpetrators. We ask questions like, “What were you thinking going to that party” and “What were you wearing.” These questions only serve to hurt the survivor more, as if they are somehow at fault.

Truth is nothing we wear, say, or do makes it permissible for someone else to be violent. Those who commit acts of violence make their own decisions. They chose to be violent just as easily as the vast majority of us chose everyday not to be.

Statistics on sexual violence can appear quite bleak. RAINN estimates that 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. Most perpetrators of sexual violence will walk away without any adverse changes to their life. While survivors of sexual violence, on the other hand, may never be the same. Agencies like HAVEN exist to assist with the healing process, but the road can be quite daunting for survivors.

As with any key social issue, many people feel that speaking up will only make things worse. Speaking up can be a scary thing in that we realize how close to home the issue is. Talking about it for some provides the realization that if it hasn’t happened to me or someone I care about – it could. So many people chose to ignore sexual violence to hide from their fears.

However, speaking up is exactly what we should be doing to not only bring awareness to the unacceptable crimes of sexual violence but to empower survivors to not live in fear. As survivors unite, and the community works together to address issues of sexual violence, true healing can begin. The more we know as a community the more we can DO to take part in uncovering the solution to end sexual violence.

Throughout this Sexual Assault Awareness Month, HAVEN has been engaging in activities to raise public awareness about the impact of sexual violence. Please join HAVEN and Affirmations for a Take Back the Night event on April 25 from 5 – 9 p.m. at Affirmations in Ferndale. For questions about the event contact Liz Bayer at loakes@haven-oakland.org.

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Celebrating Service

This week, April 6-12, is National Volunteer Week. It’s a time to formally celebrate and praise the contributions made by the Volunteers, members of the Speaker’s Bureau and Interns that provide service to HAVEN all year round.

Our volunteers support our organization in a wide variety of programs, and contribute in many ways. Here’s an overview of their impact:

Administrative & Support - Volunteers act as HAVEN ambassadors in the community and keep HAVEN moving forward by providing critical support services. They help with fundraising, office work, donation collection, display tables, maintenance projects and other important tasks.

Children’s Activities – These volunteers share their joy of crafting, story-telling and playing games! They help with taking children on field trips, watching our client’s children so they can attend their counseling session, tutoring school-age children and offering mentoring to children of all ages.

Community Volunteers – Assist with special projects such cultivating our large vegetable garden, cleaning and painting at the Shelter or START house, providing special services for shelter residents (providing home cooked meals or treats, movie night, spa night, craft projects and more). Our community volunteers provide essential donations to keep the Residential and START programs running on a day-to-day basis.

Crisis & Support Line – These volunteers are the first line of contact for people seeking HAVEN services. Volunteers work on the 24-hour crisis line, answering calls from people in the community, listening to stories and offering community resources.

Residential – Our Residential Program volunteers keep our shelter running by providing direct assistance to residents and shelter staff. They share skills, strength and support to help survivors with their daily living needs.

Social Action – These volunteers provide compassion and reassurance during a crisis. Volunteers meet survivors in the moments after an assault, offering on-call crisis intervention to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault at Oakland County hospitals, police departments, and HAVEN START (sexual assault survivors) program.

Speaker’s Bureau – Survivors of domestic and sexual assault volunteer their time to share their personal experiences living with domestic and/or sexual assault. They add a personal dimension and highlight the complex nature of abusive relationships.

These descriptions do not truly capture the essence of the work that each and every volunteer contributes towards the mission of ending domestic and sexual violence. They are selflessly dedicated to making a difference and enriching the lives of survivors and their families. Our volunteers help us bring about real change in the lives of those we serve. And because of that we are grateful and celebrate each of you!

Interested in joining the HAVEN team as a volunteer?  We can use your help. Click here for more information.

 

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How Would You React?

Guest Post by: Diane Zalecki RN, Program Director, Safe Therapeutic Assault Response Team (START), HAVEN

There is no shame in grieving the loss of a loved one. No guilt when your home is broken into and your most treasured mementos are stolen from you. No one doubts your injuries when you are in a car accident. So why then are rape victims doubted? Friends, family, coworkers, law enforcement and even health care providers doubt them, their story, or maybe even their judgment.

Rape is just as unpredictable as any other tragedy that happens to people. In each case, the victim didn’t ask for the devastating tragedy, didn’t deserve it and may spend the rest of their life reliving the event trying to heal from it. Victims of tragedy often ask themselves, “Why me?”  Victims of the tragedy of rape ask the same question.

So the question becomes why do we hold rape victims to a greater scrutiny? Rape can happen to anyone, much like most life-changing tragedies. It is certainly a frightening thought but every two minutes another American is sexually assaulted. It happens at an alarming rate in every corner of the country and yes, in Oakland County too.

It happens to every age group and to both men and women. The victim can be rich or poor, old or young. Statistics tell us there are more women than men that are victims of rape. In fact, in her lifetime, it is estimated that one out of six American women has been the victim of a rape or an attempted rape. The only common statistic between them is that none of these victims deserved what happened to them. The fault lies squarely on the perpetrator of the crime but yet, we hold the victims of rape to a different standard. They deserve better than that, much better. They deserve to be believed.

Friends and family are typically the first people a rape victim seeks out after the terrifying violation of rape and sexual violence. What the victim needs is to be believed, simply believed. The biggest predictor of how a person heals from rape is the way the first people they tell react to what happened to them.

In many incidences, a victim notifies the police or goes to the nearest hospital and they are met with raised eyebrows and aggressive questioning. The victim begins to shut down and these reactions will live in their memory and further violate the victim. Many victims take back their accusations or recant. Then many professionals step back and say, “See, I didn’t think the rape really happened.”

The reality is that rape victims make a false report about as often as people report false robberies. But all reports of robbery are taken and then investigated. It would be hard to believe that a police officer would question a car accident victim in the Emergency Room about why they were driving on a particular road on the night of their accident. Why then are rape victims asked those same types of questions: “Why were you at that party?” or “Why did you talk to that stranger?”

Driving on a particular road, going to a party or speaking to a stranger is never the reason for tragic events that follow. That called is victim blaming. Blaming someone for what wasn’t his or her fault and denying the victim support is inexcusable. Victims are actually survivors who need support, starting with the simple act of believing them. Believing in the survivor is critical to healing process.

The month of April is designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It is a time set aside for reflection on what we as a community can do to address sexual violence. As an individual, I urge you to seek to understand your role in prevention and educate yourself on how to support a survivor.

HAVEN offers medical forensic examination for sexual assault survivors, including support, safety planning and counseling. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault please call our 24-hour Crisis and Support Line at 877-922-1274 for help. All survivor services are free of charge.

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Two Sides to a Statistic

A disclaimer, I never did like statistics as a college student and all these years later I’m still not a fan.  One primary reason is that it is really hard to trust a statistic unless you are willing to actually read the research conducted behind it.  As my statistics professor put it, “every statistic has two sides.”

Case in point.  An organization, with good intent, sent out a fact sheet about teen dating violence. This information was widely circulated in my community and I would suspect in communities around the country. The information within this document was useful and helpful in raising awareness about teen dating violence.  And no surprise, statistics were used in putting the information together, interpreted for the reader and used to make a point. The point being that teen dating violence is a big problem in the United States.

But the problem with this type of quick information sharing is that much gets lost in the interpretation of the research or in trying to make a point with as few words as possible.  And therefore, often, the inaccurate side of a statistic is told.

Male and female teens are equally likely to perpetrate and experience dating violence, states Child Trends’ Five Things to Know about Teen Dating Violence.  If you visit the link used for this statement and you read the article in its entirety, I suspect that you will agree with me – the statement used in the list is not a fully accurate description of the truth.  It is a prime example of what is often left out of the conversation.

Multiple research studies have demonstrated that there is a reciprocal use of violence by both partners. However, in many studies “ researchers fail to address the meaning, context, or consequences of the violence” (Dekeseredy, 1995). For example, much of the dating violence research overlooks whether female use of violence was in self-defense or in response to male physical or sexual violence (O’Keefe 2005).

In fact, multiple studies have found that adolescent boys clearly stated that they would use violence against their partner to get their way or to control their partner, whereas adolescent girls would slap or push their boyfriends to be cute, playful or flirtatious. Adolescent girls indicate that fear is a primary effect on them, whereas adolescent boys report little to no fear. As O’Keefe states in her findings, “Given that fear, intimidation, power and control are at the core of adult battering relationships, it is critical to understand how these dynamics may be played out in adolescent relationships.”

Given that nearly 70% of female victims and 54% of male victims experience intimate partner violence prior to the age of 25, it is important that we get this information right.  It is critical that we are able to educate our adolescents about the root causes and impact of dating violence. And it is critical that we be cautious about our use of language when we do so. Blaming the victim instead of holding abusers accountable can have a lethal impact.

This post was originally featured on the Huffington Post Impact blog.

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March Forth

For me the month of March brings a feeling of hope, a beacon at the end of a long cold winter. March is the means to an end, bringing with it the anticipation of April and spring. March also has a few of my favorite days – March 4th or March Forth as I always recognize it, March 8th International Women’s Day, and then of course the entire month is Women’s History Month.

For those unfamiliar with my affinity for the special day of March 4th, the day has been transformed for me, and many others, as a reminder to march forth. It’s a day to be engaged, to stretch, to make a difference, to refuse to let excuses get in the way of goals, and to dare. In my 25+ years of recognizing March Forth, I have literally marched against nuclear weapons, called every one of my elected officials from school board members to Congressional members, made a few life altering personal decisions, and even marched around a room, banging drums with a group of preschoolers declaring that we would not say mean things to others.

But even on a day that inspires, somewhere another man will rape or beat his partner. And at the end of today another woman and another child will experience pain at the hands of someone who pledged to love them. On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States.*

We can continue to enact legislation and laws. We can continue to raise awareness and alarm. But are we fully committed to make the systemic and social change necessary to eliminate the crimes of domestic and sexual violence? Are we ready to examine what is keeping us from having safe, equal and accountable communities? Are we prepared to insist, demand, and expect our leaders to make equality a top priority?

The simplest way to start YOUR march is to be educated. Educate yourself about domestic violence and sexual assault. Armed with this information, pass it on. Share it with your children, teens, teachers, coworkers, and policy makers. Become advocates and ambassadors – tweet about it, post it on Facebook, talk about it with your coworkers. Email your elected officials and remind them that there is much work to be done to promote and ensure equality for all.

This year the theme for International Women’s Day is Inspiring Change. This theme encourages advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere in every way. It calls for challenging the status quo for women’s equality and vigilance inspiring positive change. And interestingly, the theme of Women’s History Month, Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment, speaks to and honors the extraordinary, and often unrecognized, determination and tenacity of women.

These themes speak loudly to me. Can you hear them? It sounds like a calling for each of us to March Forth for women and girls – right now. Because when you’re a victim every minute counts.

*Based on the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control in 2010.

This post was originally featured on Huffington Post Impact blog

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Boy Interrupted

Co-authored by: Kristopher Kole Wyckhuys, Prevention Education Specialist, HAVEN

Many folks are familiar with the definition and dynamics of domestic violence. They are communicated through various channels, including public service announcements, months named in recognition, laws proposed and enacted and organizations and resources available to assist survivors. Some are also familiar with the movement born in the late seventies that carried education, awareness and assistance to the mainstream and forefront of the epidemic. I’m not the first to write about domestic violence and certainly won’t be the last. Yet statistics are still staggering as approximately 1/5 young women report physical and/or sexual assault by a dating partner.

Outcomes for Youth Experiencing Violent Relationships

Domestic violence and dating violence (DV) are both defined as a pattern of assaulting/controlling attitudes and behaviors that one person uses to maintain power and control over another in an intimate-partner relationship. The difference is that dating violence specifically relates to teens/young adults.

What we experience while we are developing emotionally as teens and young adults influences our attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, general feelings about oneself and the world. Survivors of DV are more likely to: develop risky/unhealthy behaviors; suffer long-term physical and psychological effects; do poorly academically; engage in underage/binge drinking; attempt suicide and carry unhealthy behavior into future relationships.

There are numerous influences and risk factors that attribute to perpetration of abuse. When I ask groups of boys, “Why do abusers abuse?” inevitably they respond with the following:

  • Bad temper, anger management, out of control, just snapped
  • Alcohol/drugs, intoxication
  • Stress, economic problems
  • Grew up in it, that’s all they know, trauma response
  • Bullied, depression, mental problems, PTSD

Certainly these influence and correlate with violence, though, these don’t equate to causation. The cause of DV is often an individual’s underlying belief that he/she has the right to exert power and control over their partner. Batterers use emotional, physical and sexual violence (and the threat of violence) as means to get what they want, when they want it, period.

Why Work with Men and Boys?

At HAVEN, we engage men/boys in leadership development that strives to end violence against women while enhancing the lives of boys as they emerge into men. This focus is centered on men/boys because in 95% of DV occurrences the perpetrator is male, whether the victim is male or female. This speaks volumes to the importance of involving men in the effort. It’s also worth noting that girls/women between ages 16 to 24 experience the highest rate of intimate-partner abuse – triple the national average!

The impact of the methodical “training” of men/boys to adhere to the culturally accepted norm of what it means to “be a man” is great. It socializes them to focus on being aggressive and dominant and the implications of this behavior run deep – for women, men, and society as a whole. The perpetration of violence over historical contexts isn’t improving; it’s simply altering its façade and playing out differently.

But it can be changed. If the people committing the crimes of DV, sexual assault or rape are overwhelmingly men and boys then they should play a role in ending it. Including men and boys in the solution means that they have a seat at the table and a say in redefining masculinity – which brings us closer to true gender equity.

Call to Action

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.  In honor of that, we’d like to spotlight 5 concrete actions in engaging young men in ending DV. It’s critical in assuring the safety of survivors/victims and promises a brighter future for the boys, who are also being harmed by the idea of toxic masculinity. When speaking with boys about dating violence and masculinity, you have to first be prepared to encounter denial, blame, defensiveness and outright hostility. It’s important to meet him where he is to set a framework for a lasting transformation. This includes challenging the socialization of men/boys through other sources including his peers or the media.

  1. Talk to him and reframe manliness and masculinity. We often use a simple exercise called the Gender Box. Ask him what it means to be a man and be prepared to confront/challenge assumptions. Frame manhood as what happens after boyhood rather than in opposition to femininity and/or womanhood.
  2. Talk with him in the moment! Play video games or watch shows and be prepared to casually talk about the exchanges that are happening that are overtly or subtly sexist and/or violent.
  3. Use contemporary examples to talk about sexual assault and encourage consent. Think about the Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines”. Consent is never blurred. It’s extremely defined. Understand it and talk about it candidly. Consent isn’t an option. It’s mandatory.
  4. Become aware of sexist language. Don’t let him (or yourself) use girl as insult (i.e. Man, stop acting like a little girl, pussy, bitch, fag). This is less an insult to the person being insulted and more a valuation/ranking of women, femininity and it’s homophobic. When we devalue women/girls in this way we effectively make it easier to subconsciously dehumanize and abuse women and girls.
  5. Watch any number of documentaries (see links below) aimed at addressing masculinity from a framework that involves men/boys as empowered bystanders rather than potential perpetrators. Let him know that you understand he’s not someone who’d hurt anyone but that he has a great stake in transforming the culture that allows it.

Interrupting the socialization systems rooted in the belief of what it means to “be a man” isn’t easy. It begins with developing a healthier model of adult masculinity and manhood that’s rooted in forming equitable relationships between all sexes, gender identities and expressions.

Related Films and Reading

The Mask You Live In – Jennifer Newsom
Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes – Byron Hurt
Tough Guise 2: Violence, Manhood and American Culture – Jackson Katz
A Guys Guide to Feminism – Michael Kimmel, Michael Kaufman
Reaching Men: Strategies for Preventing Sexist Attitudes, Behaviors and Violence – Rus Funk

Kristopher Kole Wyckhuys is a respectful and optimistic voice within an intersectional social justice movement. As a Prevention Education Specialist at HAVEN, he focuses on redefining healthy masculinity and works to engage men in ending gender-based violence.

This post was originally featured on the Huffington Post Impact blog

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The Future of Stalking is Now

Guest post by: Richelle Duane, Civil Advocacy Supervisor, HAVEN

When I was growing up cartoons, movies, and television shows about the future were pretty common.  There was The Jetsons, Back to the Future and Star Trek, just to name a few.  These ideas of what the future may look like and be like were exciting and fascinating but at the same time seemed so far away and fantastical.  It was hard to believe any of it could or would ever be reality.  Little did I know that the future was only a few short decades away.

Granted we aren’t all flying around in hover crafts, teleporting, or living in outer space; at least not yet.  But the rate at which technology has evolved, the devices we now have and the things we are now capable of are astounding compared to just 30 years ago.  While these technological advances are impressive and beneficial they also come with a risk.  In my experience, technology can be a blessing or a curse depending on who is utilizing it and what their intentions are.

Although this view could apply to lots of things, the risks to which I’m referring are specific to the internet, computers, and GPS.  These are things that most of us have come to rely on and use on a daily basis. Our phones have become mini computers, we can access the internet from just about anywhere now, and satellites can locate, guide and even see us from outer space.  However, aside from concern that bank or credit card information could be compromised during an online transaction or that we might accidentally expose our device to a malicious virus do most of us really think about the dangers that this technology presents or the ways in which it may be misused?  Probably not.  At least not until it becomes an issue in our own life or that of someone we know.

At HAVEN we see the ways in which technology is used to stalk and abuse our clients on a daily basis.  The tactics are numerous and constantly evolving.  Below are just some of the ways in which commonly utilized technology is misused by abusers for purposes of stalking.

Email

  • Account hacked to gain access to private, personal conversations.
  • Once hacked, this gives the abuser access to change other online account (phone, credit card, social media, etc.) passwords that are linked to that email.
  • Abuser can obtain contact information for victim’s friends and family.
  • Abuser has ability to send victim messages and pictures 24/7.

Social Media

  • Monitor where victim is or is going through victim’s own status updates and posts or ones that the victim is “tagged” or mentioned in.
  • Abuser may create fake or imposter profiles in order to gain access and contact with the victim.
  • Use profile information to learn where victim lives, works, spends time, etc.

Computer Software

  • Keystroke tracking software records every key pressed revealing passwords, websites visited, and messages sent.
  • Computer webcams and microphones can be remotely accessed and used to spy and record.

Cell Phone

  • Phone (and therefore the victim’s) location can be tracked using GPS signal, “family locator” type services through phone provider, or hidden applications uploaded to the phone.
  • Applications designed and used to block or disguise caller’s ID
  • Abuser has ability to call, text, or send pictures to client 24/7.

Internet Search Engines

  • Search of a person’s name can be used to bring up any information on a person that has been posted publicly on an internet site or database.  This can include past and present addresses, phone numbers, names of relatives, articles in which the person was mentioned, resumes, and online profiles.
  • An image search of a person’s name can bring up pictures of that person that were publicly posted online.

Have you tried searching your name lately?

Other Devices (most likely available at your local Spy Shop)

  • External trackers that can be installed in or on cars, cell phones and other objects
  • Microphones or “bugs” used to record or spy on conversations
  • Spy cams that are built into or can be hidden in objects

Don’t worry; I’m not giving abusers and stalkers any ideas or tips.  They are already well aware of these methods and many more.  Every day new devices, software and applications are being developed and used.  Technology is a stalker’s best friend and knowledge is our best defense.  By knowing these tactics we can take steps, such as the following ones, to protect ourselves.

  • Change passwords frequently and don’t use any word, name, phrase, or date that has a personal connection to you.  Better yet, don’t use any actual words.  Mix up numbers and both upper and lower case letters.
  • If you think your personal or home computer has been compromised or is being monitored, use a public computer such as at a library or computer lab.
  • Learn about and utilize privacy settings on social media sites.
  • Always be mindful of the information you post online keeping in mind that anyone could see it.
  • Ask friends not to mention or tag you in their online posts
  • Limit online connections to people you know well and trust.

If you or someone you know is being stalked, get help by calling the HAVEN Crisis and Support Line at 877-922-1274.

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