Sexual Assault on College Campuses

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Guest post by Meghan Talbot

Nowadays, when incoming freshmen enter college, they are not just nervous about making friends, doing well in classes, and adjusting to life on their own. A study showed that college students are more afraid of being raped than they are of being murdered. And unfortunately, that fear isn’t completely exaggerated. Sexual assault is becoming an epidemic in the college setting, as an estimated 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted as undergrads. It is reported that college freshmen are the most likely to be sexually assaulted (though researchers are not completely sure why this is). Most rapes occur at college parties where drinking is involved, and by someone the victim knows. However, the crime can happen to victims of all ages and in a variety of settings. It is also important to understand that no colleges are excluded from this epidemic — high percentages of sexual assault occur in both rural and urban schools, co-ed and single gender, large and small, secular and religious.

Though sexual assault is extremely common in the campus setting, very few cases are reported to the authorities or to school officials, and even fewer will result in judicial action. Victims may keep silent about what happened as they often believe it’s their fault- because of what they were drinking or wearing, or for voluntarily going out with the assailant. They also may fear unsympathetic treatment from officials, interrogation from police, or retaliation by their attacker. In addition, because the majority of reported sexual assaults do not result in prosecution, victims often decide it is not worth the trauma of going through a judicial hearing.

Because victims often keep silent about what happened, they are more likely to suffer from mental health conditions such as depression or PTSD. Over 30% of victims say they have considered suicide after their attack, and many have succeeded.

Colleges are becoming more aware of the epidemic and are trying to prevent sexual assault in a variety of ways. In 1972, the Title IX law was passed in order to prevent gender discrimination in athletics, but is now being reinterpreted to protect victims of sexual violence in college. Through the law, students are allowed to change class schedules or housing arrangements after an assault in order to avoid their attacker if need be. Victims may also be provided counseling and assistance reporting the crime under the law. However, the law is controversial and a number of universities are under investigation for violating the law.

Schools are taking other steps to prevent sexual assault. Prevention techniques are often taught to incoming freshmen during their orientation week and sorority and fraternity members are often required to take a course in alcohol safety and consent. In addition, a variety of student organizations exist for victims to get involved on campus and heal together. It is the hope of many that through education and protection sexual assault will become less common in the university setting.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, HAVEN can help. Call the free and confidential 24-hour Crisis and Support Line at 877-922-1274.

 

 

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Suffering in Silence

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Photo credit: BreaktheCycle.org

Guest Post by Nkenge Burkhead, Prevention Education Specialist, HAVEN

Often the media portrays domestic violence as a married heterosexual couple or partners living together. They have usually been together multiple years and may share bills, expenses, cars, and children. If teens are mentioned at all they are usually witnesses that experience violence second-hand. However, the unfortunate reality for many teens is that they are already experiencing violence and abuse in their relationships, and are suffering in silence.

Intimate partner violence is an umbrella term that covers domestic violence and dating violence. While domestic violence and dating violence are similar, there are differences in the way power and control techniques are carried out. In order to provide adequate resources, we must first acknowledge that teen dating violence exists and include teens in the discussion. Secondly, we must understand and recognize the signs and tools used to perpetrate abuse.

The Prevention Education team at HAVEN conducts interactive presentations with high school students. These students are of various identities, racial, and economic backgrounds. One of the questions we pose is “can texting or calling constantly be a sign of controlling behavior?” I’m still surprised at the number of students who answer “no”, and further shocked at the number of students who identify this behavior to be at least normal and caring.

Social media invites us to publicly announce where we are and who we’re with, discuss our happy and sad moments. It also allows partners to have constant access. We know that stalking has always been used by abusive partners. However, with the invention of smart phones and social media, stalking has redesigned how it presents itself. Accessibility is greater and it has become easier for abusive partners to utilize and control. They no longer have to come to where you are to interrupt your feeling of safety, they can do it from home.

Teen dating violence statistics tell us that there is a need for education, intervention, and resource availability. 1 in 3 adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner. 1 in 10 high school students has been purposely hit, slapped, or physically hurt by a partner. Girls and women between the ages 16 and 24 experience the highest rates of dating violence. These are the statistics that have been collected through reporting. But most people, teens included, never report experiencing intimate-partner violence. There are no statistics for teens who don’t report because they do not identify what they’re experiencing as abuse, or may be afraid to tell their parents because they don’t know they’ve been dating, or might be afraid to get someone in trouble.

We recognize abuse can show up in many ways that aren’t physical. Through our prevention presentations, we are able to ignite conversations that allow teens to explore their personal beliefs and boundaries in relationships. We identify signs and abusive tactics. We also offer tools on how to respond to a friends’ disclosure in a way that is empowering and supportive.

HAVEN’s Prevention Education team is able to provide youth with a space to acknowledge and discuss the prevalence of teen dating violence. In addition to the presentations our counseling services are also available to youth.

Talk to the teens in your life. Listen and learn where they are. Offer advice and support when asked. Offer HAVEN as a resource when any type of abuse is suspected. To schedule HAVEN Prevention Education presentations in your school or community group contact the Prevention Education Program Director at (248) 334-1284 ext. 352.

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January is National Stalking Awareness Month

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By Karen Wullaert DeKett, MA, LPC, DV/SA Therapist, HAVEN

Stalking is defined as a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. It can include, but is not limited to:

  • Following someone
  • Making repeated phone calls or sending text messages
  • Making unwanted contact with someone on social media
  • Leaving unwanted gifts
  • Causing property damage, or
  • Making threats against a person or their family, friends, or pets

Stalkers want to gain power and control over another person by creating fear. Stalking is a major and often misunderstood issue in our society. In the United States, 7.5 million people are stalked every year (Breiding et al., 2014). Being victimized by a stalker can lead to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and significant social difficulties.

In popular culture, stalking is often depicted as a mentally ill stranger obsessively following their victim. However, this is a misrepresentation of many victims’ experience. Between 76% and 86% of victims know their stalker; often, this person is someone they have had a relationship with. 61% of female victims and 41% of male victims are stalked by a current or former partner (Breiding et al., 2014). Stalking can be insidious and stalking behavior may not seem threatening to people outside of the relationship. In fact, it may even be misconstrued as thoughtful or caring.

One of my client’s, Maya, told me that during their divorce her estranged husband would leave flowers, concert tickets, and other gifts on her front porch. “Other people thought he was being sweet or suggested that maybe he was trying to win me back or make amends,” she told me. “But to me, it would create so much fear. I knew it was his way to telling me I was still ‘his’.”

Stalking is not about romance or desire. Stalking is about power and control.

No one deserves to live with the fear and uncertainty of stalking victimization. If you are being stalked or harassed, HAVEN is here to help. We offer many services for victims of stalking, including counseling and legal advocacy. To access HAVEN services, please call our free, 24-hour Crisis and Support Line at (877) 922-1274. Do not suffer in silence; you are not alone.

References: [Matthew J. Breiding et al., “Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization – National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, United States, 2011”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Morality Weekly Report, Vol. 63, No. 8 (2014)]

 

 

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Altered Books, Altered Self-Compassion

Guest Blog by Anne Sutton, MA LPC, HAVEN – Counseling Program

“Self-compassion is extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering.” – Dr. Kristen Neff, author of Self-Compassion

Self-Compassion as a daily practice can be very difficult for survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual violence. Trauma alters our inner self-talk, increasing our critical voices and muting our loving compassionate voices. The negative voice can become so strong it becomes a bully. It bellows and overwhelms our quieter, loving voices.

art1 art2Survivors’ representations of the “inner bully,” their negative self-talk

It is important to train our compassionate self because that’s the part of us that is most helpful. If we only listen to the anxious/angry/self-critical part of ourselves, we get a biased view.

We all want to be more loving to ourselves but HOW? What are the tools? What can help us to remember to have self-compassion for ourselves? What can help us quiet our inner bully?

The group members in HAVEN’S on going trauma support group, Surviving and Thriving through Trauma began a lengthy group project focused on increasing feelings of self-compassion and developing a daily self-compassion practice. Each group member developed a personal handbook of self-compassion by creating an Altered Book.

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Four of the group members with their completed Altered Books. 

Altered books are an art therapy technique that takes an old hard cover book, destroys it and transforms it into something completely different, something amazingly beautiful and personal.

 

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Wisdom

The group started on this project in early May, 2016 and had a final celebration of their hard work in September. The women started by destroying the original books (most were brought from home or garage sales) to craft pages to create upon. We ripped out pages in the books, leaving large gaps in the books and filling the group room with discarded pages.

We then glued the remaining pages together leaving 10-12 thick and solid pages. These became our foundation to paint, draw, write and collage upon. The group members spent the next 10 weeks reflecting upon and making creative representations of ten key aspects of self-compassion:

  • May I be kind to myself
  • My inner bully
  • Compassionate people in my life
  • A compassionate place
  • A compassionate color
  • Wisdom
  • Strength
  • Responsibility
  • Warmth
  • My perfect nurturer

Here are some more amazing creations:

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May I be kind to myself

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My compassionate color

 

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My perfect nurturer

 

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Warmth

The project became a fun, messy and very creative way to address a difficult issue for trauma survivors, learning to be loving to ourselves.

 

Self-compassion is an important part of ALL of our lives. The group and I would like to share with you one of our favorite self-compassion meditation practices (from Kristen Neff) to use when your inner bully shouts at you or life is just hard:

This is a moment of suffering

                  Suffering is a part of living

                  May I be kind to myself

                                    May I give myself the compassion I need

                                    May I learn to accept myself as I am

                                    May I be strong

                                    May I be safe

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My Compassionate Self – cover art

 

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Strength and Wisdom

If you’d like to learn more about the HAVEN Counseling Program, click here.

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Collective Strength

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Guest post by Karen Wullaert DeKett, MA, LPC, DV/SA Therapist, HAVEN

With one in three Michigan families impacted by domestic violence, it can seem like a daunting task to bring it to an end. But, by working together we can make great strides through our collective strength in protecting those impacted by this crime.

This month is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It’s a chance for everyone in the movement – victims, survivors, advocates, law enforcement, supporters and politicians – to unite in our work to end abuse. If you’re wondering how YOU can support this effort, here are some ideas:

  • Many of our supporters encourage their coworkers to wear purple and collect funds to donate in support of survivors. If your organization does this, please be sure to send us a picture or post on social media with the hashtags #LiveWithoutFear and #DVAM.

You can also:

  • Explore our website to learn about the issue.
  • Hold your friends accountable when they disrespect women and girls.
  • Engage others in discussions about violence against women.
  • Speak out against racist, sexist or homophobic jokes.
  • Learn how to take action if you witness a violent act against a friend or neighbor. While it can be a scary or awkward situation, the difference between not doing anything and doing something could mean the difference between life and death.
  • Applaud others who speak out against violence and oppression.
  • Reconsider spanking or hitting your children.
  • Open the dialogue with your children and teach them that respect is the minimum in a relationship and lead by example. Let them know what acceptable behavior is and what the limits are.

At HAVEN, our Counseling Program recognizes Domestic Violence Awareness Month by holding a Candlelight Vigil for survivors every year. Our goal is to bring survivors together to celebrate their inner strength, their connectedness, and their resilience. We want to honor our past and all of the survivors and supporters who have come before us. We also look forward to the future and creating a world free of violence and fear.

This year, residential and non-residential clients came together to celebrate their personal healing journeys and their collective strength. The evening started with a meditation focused on loving-kindness, encouraging each survivor to focus on her worthiness and strength.

Next, clients created a group art project. The foundation of the art piece was a tree in the Meditation Garden. The tree represented the movement to end domestic violence. The movement has deep roots, spanning generations. The tree represented all survivors and supporters, past, present, and future. Each person was given a cutout of a hand; it represented their “leaf” on the tree, their own unique healing journey. It’s their story in the larger narrative.

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After they finished creating their handprints, they were given the option of sharing with the group. They shared stories of courage and faith in the face of abuse and adversity. They shared what grounded them and what has helped them heal. They shared inspirational words, quotes, and poetry. After each person shared, the group offered applause and kind words.

Next, the survivors hung their handprints on the tree and gathered around the fire pit. Each woman took a candle and one-by-one, they lit each other’s candles. As they touched candles, they shared an affirmation or words of encouragement with one another. There was a moment of silence to honor all survivors of domestic violence.

I have so much gratitude for the women who came to this year’s vigil. It was inspiring to be in their presence, not just to hear their stories of hope and empowerment, but to see the compassion and warmth they shared with each other. Sometimes HAVEN’s mission seems so big to me. But on nights like the Candlelight Vigil, I am reminded of how powerful a small group can be and how much of an impact HAVEN has in the lives of survivors.

If you’d like to learn more about HAVEN, visit our website at www.haven-oakland.org.

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True Teamwork

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The team from Lear Corporation, also the event’s presenting sponsor, poses with the Lions’ mascot, Roary, at the 2015 HAVEN Tailgate Party. 

Guest post by Lindsey Ransone, HAVEN Intern

It’s wild to think that the Olympics ended three weeks ago. The image of Rio’s Mayor, Eduardo Paes, handing over the Olympic flag to Tokyo’s Governor, Yuriko Koike, at the closing ceremony, is left engraved in our memories. It gives us the feeling of unity – anyone, regardless of our differences, or locations, can come together and participate in a global event that symbolizes teamwork.

Not only was true teamwork exhibited by the US Women’s gymnastics team, allowing them to take home the gold, but the team efforts of Abbey D’Agostino of the United States and Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand in the Women’s 5,000-meter run were astounding. Both D’Agostino and Hamblin, who were competing against one another’s country in the event, fell a mile into the race. Instead of leaving one another behind, D’Agostino and Hamblin exemplified great compassion and leadership by helping one another get up and move forward. The message for us is that you can find supporters to help work towards a common goal outside of your group and help each other reach the finish line.

Like those two women, HAVEN has been blessed with a partnership with the Detroit Lions. Both organizations, HAVEN, and the Lions understand that though we are two separate entities, together we are more effective in working towards ending crimes that affect everyone. And it will take all of us to tackle these issues, because sadly one in three Michigan families have been impacted by domestic violence and one in four women and one in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape.

On September 25, HAVEN will be partnering with the Lions once again for HAVEN’s 4th annual Tailgate Party at the Birmingham Athletic Club. The event coincides with the Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers game and features a buffet lunch, raffles and auctions, beer and wine, special liquor tastings, as well as speakers to share HAVEN’s mission during halftime.

Together we can achieve the level of teamwork that was showcased during the Olympics and through the Lions’ partnership, to collectively end domestic violence and sexual assault. Won’t you join us?

For more information about HAVEN’s 4th annual Tailgate Party on September 25th and to purchase tickets click here. 

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Women’s Equality Day 2016

imageGuest Post by Nkenge Burkhead, Prevention Education Specialist, HAVEN

For nearly 100 years, women fought, marched, and rallied against the cultural norms of the time. Women came together to establish the National American Women’s Suffrage Association. Their goal was to ensure women had the right to vote. August 26, 1920, the goal was realized, the constitution was ratified to allow women the same voting rights as men.

Today girls and women are able to walk into voting polls without fear of arrest, knowing their vote will matter. We know that the freedoms we enjoy are often a result of activism by those who came before us. We remember the National American Women’s Suffrage Association, we honor August 26th as Women’s Equality Day.

Susan B. Anthony is recognized as a leader in the suffrage movement. She understood women needed to have a voice in laws that especially affected women and children. While participating in the suffrage movement she also started a campaign for the expansion of married women’s property rights. Alice Paul was also a member of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association. She is responsible for organizing the historic Suffrage parade. She strategically planned the march to coincide with President Wilson’s inauguration. She was later arrested for being non-patriotic. Her arrest, and treatment in jail drew necessary attention to the movement. The president ordered her immediate release and announced his support for their cause.

Many women celebrate this victory all over the United States. Some organizations have large annual celebrations. Wisconsin Women’s Network and The Women’s Intercultural Network in San Francisco host events honoring women’s suffrage. San Mateo County History Museum hold a rally for ratification of the ERA. In Albuquerque, Women Organized to Resist and Defend also host a celebration.

2016 marks the 96th anniversary of women voters. It is also a history making year in politics. When voters go into the voting booths this election there will be a woman on the ballot. I am not endorsing or suggesting a vote for any party or candidate. I am observing the connection. The Suffrage Movement was about women having a voice. Women have the option to elect officials of their choosing, and furthermore the option to become an elected official themselves. Casting your vote is using your voice, running for office is using your voice. Voting and asking the women around you if they’ve registered to vote is the best way for all of us to celebrate Women’s Equality Day!

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