Oscars Report: Sexual Assault Survivors Take Center Stage

I got all Oscar ready this weekend. You know, in my pajamas curled up on the couch by myself anxiously awaiting one moment everyone was waiting for: Vice President Joe Biden and Lady Gaga taking the stage for sexual assault. Wait, you thought I was talking about Leo’s big moment?

While my son napped on Friday, I took advantage of one of the rare moments I get as a mom during daylight hours to watch The Hunting Ground, the film about college sexual assault, which was nominated for Lady Gaga’s song “Til It Happens To You” (TIHTY). With my headphones in and my little one napping next to me, I found myself emotionally overcome hearing account after account of gross violations of students’ (both men and women) bodies and rights and universities reprehensible cover ups of the crimes.

I was taken back to the small room where I would document survivors’ stories, photograph them, and complete their physical exam and evidence collection. Lady Gaga’s words “You tell me it gets better …. Til it happens to you, it won’t be real” transported me back to the moment after the patients would leave and I would review my documentation and break down and let the tears and emotions pour out after holding it together for these patients for the 4-6 hour exam. I did my job, but it would never be enough. I knew that no matter how meticulous I was in my evidence collection, only a small number of cases would go to trial, and an even smaller number would result in conviction. As demonstrated in the film and through my personal experience, there is very little accountability for perpetrators of sexual assault.

That is why Joe Biden and Lady Gaga taking the Oscars stage before an audience of more than 30 million viewers and talking directly about sexual assault is important. Biden’s message centered around a campaign he has headed up seeking to change the culture around sexual abuse hoping “no woman or man ever feels they have to ask themselves ‘what did I do’. They did nothing wrong.” Lady Gaga gave an intimate and vulnerable performance of TIHTY on a darkened stage alone with a piano. You could see in her face, this was personal. She was joined on stage by an army of survivors holding hands and bearing messages on their arms like “Unbreakable”, “Survivor”, and “Not your fault”.

A stage full of survivors of sexual assault were supported by one of the biggest pop stars in the world and the Vice President of the United States. Their faces were seen and their voices were collectively heard. I doubt many people will take the pledge Biden urged them to take, but at the very least he made a strong statement that we are all responsible for helping victims of sexual assault. Now, we need to start holding perpetrators accountable and changing the culture that supports committing sexual assault.

We need to start speaking directly to perpetrators who are – brace yourselves – people you know and maybe even people you love. Until we start acknowledging that the people who rape and sexually abuse are most likely humans we interact with daily and not scary monsters lurking in dark alleys, we will never actually reduce the incidence of sexual assault. 8% of men are responsible for 90% of sexual assault. Let’s start talking to them and about them and stop defending them. Let’s stop worrying about their feelings. They lost the right to their image protection when they chose to violate someone in the worst way imaginable.

 

Rachel Newhouse

rachelnewhouse.blogspot.com

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, Certified Nurse Midwife, Ph.D. Student, Fearless Feminist

Rachel

Teenage Drama or Nah?  Educating Teens on the Importance of Healthy Relationships. By blogger Amanda , MSHE

Teenage Drama or Nah? Educating Teens on the Importance of Healthy Relationships. By blogger Amanda , MSHE

teen violence

We all remember our first love. For some, it was in kindergarten and we fell in love over a PB&J or on the monkey bars at recess. For others, it was through a note passed across several seats in your middle school English class. But, if we want to get to the REAL first love” stories, we look no further than the halls of our local high schools. Teens are making it “Facebook official” and declaring their love for each other on a daily basis. As adults, it’s easy to pass this off as “young love” or “teenage drama” and not take the feelings/emotions of teens seriously, but by doing this we can miss an extremely important opportunity: teaching teens about healthy relationships. It’s crucial that we help teens understand what a healthy relationship looks like, and give them tools and resources to get out of an unhealthy relationship, because this will have a lasting impact.

Teen dating abuse is extremely common. One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. This figure far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence (loveisrespect.org). Often times when people hear “abusive relationships” their minds go straight to physical violence. However, dating abuse does not have to be physical, and often times it isn’t. I work with young people in a high school setting,

and I often tell students, “If you went on a first date with someone, and they punched you in the face, chances are you probably wouldn’t go on a second date!” They laugh a little at the absurdity of my comment, but understand what I am saying. Once a relationship reaches the point of physical abuse, that relationship is extremely dangerous. But how did the relationship get to that point? Most relationships look good in the beginning stages, and when warning signs of abusive behaviors start to occur, people may dismiss them.

  

I spend a lot of time talking with teens about relationships. I work very closely with our local domestic violence agency, Underground Railroad, Inc of Saginaw, to educate our youth on the importance of healthy relationships and and how to recognized warning signs. One fact that we emphasize to our students is the ONLY cause of relationship abuse is one person wanting power and control over their partner. Often times, teens may think abuse happens because of drug/alcohol abuse, a history of abuse, anger issues, jealousy, or the like. It is vitally important to help our teens understand that abuse is NEVER their fault, and that they have the right to end a relationship for any reason at any time.

Each year the group of students I work with creates a big campaign for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. As part of this campaign, students create artwork that expresses healthy vs. unhealthy relationships, assemble healthy relationship Valentines bags, ask their peers and teachers to wear purple (for domestic violence awareness) to school events, and provide information about teen dating violence through a variety of settings. This campaign was implemented in 2011, and since then we have seen a decrease in bullying and other negative social behaviors.

Teenage relationships are more than just “teen drama” and are not something to be dismissed. We need to teach our teens, while they are still developing their skill set, how to have healthy relationships. Teens are our future. We need to offer them the support they need to have healthy, respectful relationships, and provide them with a safe, non-judgmental space to speak openly about dating abuse.

Flashlight And Beyond By Blogger Rose

Flashlight And Beyond By Blogger Rose

I think the number one tip to staying safe from assault is to be aware of your surroundings.  One of the easiest ways, in my opinion, is to bring a flashlight when walking outside alone or with others.  However, this may seem almost impossible with the amount of baggage you carry around on a daily basis, whether it is instrument cases, backpacks, artwork, etc.  I searched around and found five options for those of us in need of an extra hand.

 Hands-Free Flashlight Short List

  1. Bright Outdoors LED Safety Lights: This two pack comes with clip on led lights to be used on anything! Some of the suggested uses are on “a cap, shirt or backpack”, but can also be attached to a “runner’s armband.” It is charged via USB, so I think it might up your chances of actually using it when you do not have to constantly change batteries.
  1. Hands Free LED Flashlight: Also a two pack, it is similar to product #1 with the added benefit of having a “magnetic closure” (caution: pacemaker users cannot use this product), it is “weather resistant” and “bendable”, and comes with a screwdriver to replace the batteries. The number of photos was helpful for visualizing the actual product’s usage.
  1. LED Sports Safety Flashing Reflective Armband: Purchase includes a two pack of an armband that is fastened with a buckle, comes in five colors, and has a 50 to 70 hour battery life.
  1. SpotLit Clip-on LED Go Anywhere Light: This clip-on is light at .6 ounces, weather resistant, has a stainless steel carabiner, has two modes one that flashes and the other that glows, and comes in different colors.
  1. 7 Color Duracell Durabeam Ultra Safety Armband Led Light: This two pack comes with a set of armbands that have two different modes of “high visibility blinking and steady light”, and has “7 color settings.”

There are so many options, so it really just depends on your price range and whether you want more of a clip-on or a band.  Just remember a flashlight can help you see what is going on around you but it is no guarantee that it will add to your safety!