R-E-S-P-E-C-T

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Domestic violence is an important issue to be aware of every day of the year. But, with February being Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, it becomes especially important during the day of the year that puts so much emphasis on “perfect” expressions of love.
With that societal pressure to create a perfect Valentine’s Day experience for one’s partner (or partners), it becomes important to remember the red flags for unhealthy relationships and behaviors –
To Err Is Human: People mess up, that’s just a given. But there is a marked difference in a partner who accidentally burns the romantic homecooked meal they worked on and suggests a romance candle-lit bowl of cereal as a substitute and a partner who accidentally burns the dinner they were cooking and proceeds to throw kitchenware and take out their frustrations on you.
Sex Is Not An Obligation: A partner should be able to give affection and attention without expecting some sexual act as reward for being considerate. This is regardless of how extravagant the date or gift was – even if they bought the Hope Diamond as an anniversary present. If you are not comfortable with anything physical (even if it was something you consented to in the past), your partner needs to understand and respect those boundaries enough to not push the issue.
The Green Eyed Monster: Jealousy is a natural emotion, but that does not make it the hallmark of a healthy relationship. It becomes an issue when it leads to controlling behaviors and pent up negativity and resentment. A partner should not bar contact with any friends or loved ones solely on the basis of their insecurities about those relationships. The proper way to deal with these feelings is to be open and honest about any concerns before they cause a rift that pushes the partners apart.

Communicate!: Probably the most important  tool in a healthy relationship toolkit is having good communication skills. In any relationship (not just romantic or sexual ones), all parties must be comfortable with addressing their needs and feelings without fear of judgment. To be open is to give the relationship the potential to mature and strengthen and helps to keep relationships from turning sour.

If you do find yourself in a relationship that has become toxic or abusive, please take the time to seek out any resources in your community that can give you the tools to plan properly for your situation.

Violence Against Women

Male Survivor

Review of “Think About It” Sexual Misconduct Training

Review of “Think About It” Sexual Misconduct Training

Most of the university trainings I have completed as a student are focused on girls carrying pepper spray, being cautious about where they walk and when, and what they should do to defend themselves if assaulted. The cause of sexual assault has nothing to do with the victim; it is about power and control.

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Photo credit: CampusClarity

Advocates have taken to the front lines nationwide and helped to develop sexual assault task forces that are trying to address the real issues underlying the reprehensible rates of sexual assaults on university campuses. I recently had to complete the “Think About It: Graduate Students” training (provided by CampusClarity ) for the University of Chicago. The training starts with a video clip that gives startling statistics and information about rape culture that sets the stage for the learner to be challenged to view rape culture as something we all participate in and have a responsibility to take action on.

Think about it image
Photo credit: CampusClarity

The outline for the programming includes the roots of harassment and sexual misconduct, how to identify abusive relationships and sexual violence, creating a supportive environment, and practical strategies for dealing with sexual misconduct. The format of the program is a simple click-through presentation combining information with knowledge checks.

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Photo credit: CampusClarity

A major strength of the training is the identification of specific areas of needed attention like the importance of non-offensive terminology when speaking to victims of sexual assault. The training provides a layperson friendly summary of state laws regarding sexual violence and misconduct as well as links to the actual legal documents. The training details the important distinction between healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships. The training is gender neutral throughout. While it was wonderful to see a section on “how to help a survivor” included, those are resources an individual would need to access at a later point and clicking through this whole presentation would be cumbersome in the midst of a crisis. A quick reference document or website with all of the resources mentioned in the training would be useful in connection with the training.

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Photo credit: CampusClarity

The section on alcohol use held alcohol too responsible for an individual’s behavior. If you aren’t a rapist, you won’t rape no matter how much alcohol you drink. The training has a section titled “Barriers to Mutual Consent”. The only true barrier to mutual consent is one individual deciding to take another individual’s choice away from her or him. The training does not include any specific information addressing trans persons while they are more likely than cisgender individuals to experience sexual violence. Lastly, the training does not specifically address same sex sexual violence.

The training is overwhelmingly a step in the right direction, extremely comprehensive, and could be very effective in preventing sexual assault. The weaknesses I identified are all correctable. The course overall is light in putting the full weight on the perpetrator unapologetically. Until we stop being afraid of offending perpetrators, we can never make tangible change in the culture of rape we live in.

Rachel Newhouse

ladyzirkhouse.blogspot.com

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

Rachel

Reporting Sexual Assault on Campus: Who should you call first?

Reporting Sexual Assault on Campus: Who should you call first?

Who to call

Universities have been raked over the coals in recent years with multiple media exposés of preponderance of sexual assault on campus. The issue is gaining momentum and with the increased attention, schools are responding with more concentrated efforts to prevent and respond to on-campus sexual assault.

As both a student and a sexual assault nurse, I have a very particular lens through which I analyze my own campus’ response to sexual assault. Full disclosure – I have not been sexually assaulted as a student, so I cannot speak to the process as an actual survivor, only as a student who understands the process of reporting a sexual assault and ideal evidence collection procedures.

UIC Sexual Misconduct

The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) has a specific page for Sexual Misconduct including the university’s sexual misconduct policy, crime definitions, and links to report incidents of sexual assault. When I clicked the link to report an incident, I was surprised to see the first section listed was to contact the UIC Title IX coordinator. As a sexual assault nurse, I know time is of the essence with sexual assault. Certain date rape drugs are metabolized within hours and obtaining a urine sample ASAP is extremely important for detection. Evidence on the survivor’s body also can degrade, be washed off, or lost as time passes. Not to mention injuries sustained as a result of the attack should be evaluated as quickly as possible and if a survivor needs a “morning after pill”, the sooner she takes it, the less likely she is to become pregnant. My first recommendation to a survivor of sexual assault would be to contact the actual police department and not campus police, or go straight to an emergency room. Under the Sexual Assault Survivors Emergency Treatment Act (SASETA), every ER in the state of Illinois must either provide treatment and evidence collection for survivors of sexual assault or transfer the victim to a location that will — and that visit is covered by the State if you do not have health insurance.

The campus sexual assault systems are connected to how justice is handled on campus and not in a court of law. The university’s responsibility is to enact disciplinary procedures to perpetrators of sexual assault, and to provide protection to, and accommodation for, survivors of sexual assault. While I applaud universities for creating systems for reporting sexual assault to campus authorities, I stand by my position that anyone who has been sexually assaulted should call 911, contact the local police department, or go to the nearest ER as the first step post-sexual assault. There is time after the police and hospital nurses and physicians are done taking care of a survivor for her/him to report to campus authorities.

Sad and alone

In addition to the importance of timing in evidence collection from and medical treatment of a survivor, there has been a track record amongst some universities who have impeded the process of justice for victims either intentionally or by misunderstanding how to handle the situation. Patients and friends always ask what I would do in a given situation, and that is impossible to know until you are actually in that situation. I imagine if I were personally sexually assaulted on campus, the first thing I would do is call someone I trusted, the second thing would be to go to an ER where I knew a sexual assault nurse would be working, and from there call an organization like Rape Victim Advocates. After the dust had settled, I would contact campus authorities as directed on my university’s website, which fortunately, appears to be a very clear pathway to filing a campus report. There is no black and white, right or wrong for reporting, and each survivor needs to do what makes her/himself feel most comforted and safe in the wake of being attacked. Know that whatever you do, whatever path you take after being assaulted, you are not alone and there are people waiting to help you. Even if it takes a little while to find the good ones.

Rachel Newhouse

ladyzirkhouse.blogspot.com

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

Rachel