When It Comes to Ending College Sexual Assault, We All Need to be Leaders

By Elizabeth Wilmerding, PIRCBlog guest

*Originally published on the FUTURES Without Violence Blog on April 14th, 2016*

FUTURES

Last month, I had the opportunity to join the ten other FUTURES Campus Leaders for a meeting at the White House with members of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. Launched in January 2014, the Task Force’s goal is to “help schools live up to their obligation to protect students from sexual violence.” As someone who has been working in the field of sexual violence prevention for the past seven years, and as a current master’s student in UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare, it was an incredibly thrilling experience to meet with the federal officials charged with ending such violence once and for all.

While the members of the Task Force have great expertise and influence, I’ve learned that it takes leadership at every level to create sustainable change. As I sat in the meeting room in the White House’s Eisenhower Executive Office Building, I was particularly impressed with the work each of my fellow Campus Leaders has been doing in their community. From awareness campaigns and peer education to campus policy advocacy and staff training, each leader offered a critical perspective into how to create safer campus communities.

The significance of leadership across all levels was highlighted for me when I returned to Berkeley in the days following the Task Force meeting. The university has been trying to address a recent flood of allegations that involve a lack of consistency when it comes to holding faculty and staff accountable when they harass or assault students and colleagues. While this is not a new issue for the school (in fact, the University of California formed its own system-wide task force in the summer of 2014 to address sexual assault on all of its ten campuses), students and community members have been speaking up more than ever before.

We are at a critical juncture when it comes to preventing sexual violence on college campuses. Those of us who have been on the ground doing the work have felt this movement building for some time. People who are new to the issue are often simultaneously shocked by the prevalence of sexual assault and eager to jump in and do their part to create change. And, all the while, more survivors are bravely contributing in any way they can―from taking care of themselves and getting support, to widely sharing their stories.

It’s time for us to acknowledge the power of leadership coming from every level. As exciting as it is to join other student leaders in meeting with the White House Task Force, it’s far from enough. We need everyone on campus—undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, staff, administrators—and everyone who cares about the campus community—prospective college students, parents of students, alumnae, legislators—to stand together. Each and every member of a college campus community deserves safety and respect, and it’s on us to hold schools accountable until it happens.


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Elizabeth Wilmerding is currently a first-year master’s student in UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare and an intern at FUTURES Without Violence. She has a background in the prevention of sexual assault, domestic violence, and suicidality. Elizabeth lives in Oakland, CA.

From the Schechter Lab: Effects of Sexual Assault on Women’s Well-Being

PIRCResearch

By Rebecca Howard

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In recent years, sexual assault on college campuses has become a topic of national conversation. Startling statistics report that one in five women will be raped during their college years.  Research has shown that sexual assault has devastating effects on survivors and can affect them years after the assault.  However, there is a gap in the current literature regarding how sexual assault in college affects women in terms of their educational attainment, future financial earnings and intimate relationships.

Since September 2015, I have been working in the Susan Schechter Lab at Prevention Innovations to better understand the long-term educational and economic impacts of sexual assault that occurs during a victim’s college years.   Under the incredible guidance of Dr. Sharyn Potter and Dr. Sharon Murphy, I have helped to design and conduct a study to gain insight from women who experienced an assault during college.  Using Amazon Mechanical Turk as well as a listserv of advocacy centers, we collected information from women across the country of all ages and backgrounds.  Through surveys and phone interviews, more than one hundred participants have bravely shared their stories with us.

Over the course of this semester, I spent nearly 200 hours transcribing phone interviews in the Schechter Lab and completed this stage of the project in March.  Currently, I am working with Drs. Potter and Murphy and Braxton Jones, a Graduate Assistant from the Sociology Department, to begin the qualitative analysis.  We are applying the principles of Heideggerian hermenutic phenomenology to interpret each woman’s story. I am excited to continue working for Prevention Innovations over the course of the summer as we move towards completion of this study.

I have had an amazing experience working for Prevention Innovations in the Schechter Lab doing such meaningful, hands-on work.  Of course, my dream is to live in a world where sexual violence is non-existent. However, if our study can help even one victim overcome the challenges they face after an assault during college, I know we have accomplished something worthwhile.

My hope is that this study will demonstrate the tremendous impact sexual assault has on all aspects of a victim’s life, not just on their current emotional state but on their education and career down the road.  I hope that the more schools become aware of these impacts, the more administrators will do to fund prevention and treatment programs, as well as show more sympathy and understanding to students who have been assaulted and need time off or help with their schoolwork. I also hope that survivors who learn about this study realize they are not alone and there are places to turn to for help if you are struggling with symptoms from the trauma.


Becca_Howard

Rebecca Howard is a Masters in Justice Studies graduate student who received her B.A. in English Literature and Justice Studies from UNH in 2014 and then spent a year off from school serving in the New Hampshire Americorps Victim Assistance Program as a victim/witness advocate for the Manchester Police Department. She is passionate about social justice and hopes to continue her career in violence against women prevention.

 

A New Approach: Supporting Victims in the Justice System

Perhaps the criminal justice system is learning how to support victims of sexual assault and consequently becoming more effective in prosecuting rape cases.

By Amy Vorenberg

MNPD Tweet

The above Tweet came from the Metro Nashville Police Department just after a jury convicted a former Vanderbilt football player of raping an unconscious woman. Among the horrific details of the case—the perpetrators took a video of the assault.

When it comes to rape, the criminal justice system gets a bad rap, and deservedly so considering its past lack of effectiveness in prosecuting rape cases. Prosecutors have historically dropped or pled out cases, afraid of taking the ill-named “he said, she said” case to trial.

But maybe we are seeing a shift and the Metro Nashville PD tweet is just one example of it. The recent Stanford rape victim’s statement, which was read aloud by 18 members of Congress on the House floor, is another significant event signaling a possible shift.  Perhaps more victims are coming forward because the criminal justice system HAS improved its support for victims.

Recently I sat down with Lara Saffo, chief prosecutor of northern New Hampshire’s Grafton County. Her jurisdiction includes several colleges, including Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, the site of a recent high-profile sexual assault case. I asked Attorney Saffo about the efforts she and her fellow prosecutors make to support and protect rape victims as their cases make their way through the system.

Vorenberg: What steps does a prosecutor’s office like yours take that provide support to a victim before a case goes to trial?

Saffo: First, we have sexual assault resource teams (SART), including on the college campuses. These are teams of medical, law enforcement and victim advocate professionals who have been specially trained as rape first-responders. By working together, the SART teams develop and implement a victim-centered approach that, hopefully, will encourage more victims to come forward.

Vorenberg:  Do you also work with local crisis centers?

Saffo: Yes, we strongly recommend that all victims of sexual assaults seek services from their local crisis center.  Crisis program advocates, unlike first responders, can have protected, confidential conversations with victims.  Crisis centers make it possible for victims to speak freely, without the risk of unwanted exposure.

Vorenberg:  You also have victim advocates in your office. What is the difference?

Saffo:  We have victim-witness coordinators. The distinction between our victim-witness coordinators and a victim advocate at a crisis center is important. Although victim-witness coordinators absolutely provide support for victims, they are there to answer questions and explain the process. Our victim-witness coordinator’s communication with victims is not protected, whereas the communication between victims and crisis center advocates is considered confidential and protected by NH statute. One of the things that everybody has to remember is that victims may not process information instantly, so you often need to explain the process over and over again. Victims need to feel comfortable calling back and saying, “Wait a minute. What is the difference between bail and arraignment? Why is bail being set again?” They are usually new to this system, and it is more than a little confusing. The victim-witness coordinator is there to answer any questions or concerns the victim has about the legal process.

Vorenberg: The first time you meet with a victim are you actually introducing her to the victim-witness advocate?

Saffo: We are trying to do that; that is our protocol. Law enforcement calls us when a victim reaches out to them so we can initiate the relationship with the coordinator. We have an on-call county attorney, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so any officer, can call and say, “I have a sexual assault case, a victim will be coming in.” We can then reach out to our victim-witness coordinator to be on hand to meet with the survivor.

Vorenberg: After a case comes into a prosecutor’s office and a complaint or indictment is filed, both the defense attorney and the prosecutor make pre-trial motions, asking the judge to either limit or allow evidence that they think will help prove (or defend) the case. What motions do prosecutors make specifically to protect the victim?

Saffo: It’s pretty standard for the defense to ask the court to allow questions about the victim’s sexual history. State statutes do not allow such information because it’s not deemed to be relevant, and for good reason. We always object to these requests.

Vorenberg: What other types of motions do you make concerning the victim?

Saffo: In most adult sexual assault cases, there’s been an examination and the medical record contains a lot of information that needs to be protected. For example, medical providers will ask, “What medications are you on?” Medications like birth control or anti-depressants, or really almost any kind of medication, is just not relevant. There may be a little more of a fight over medications like anti-depressants but I generally feel that I can keep that information out of the record, although you can’t make any promises to the victim.

Vorenberg: What about counseling records?

Saffo: You want to protect the victim’s counseling records. However, sometimes counseling records may contain helpful information. They may contain proof of trauma that you want to tell the jury about. Often judges will do an in camera review, which means he or she will look at the records outside of the courtroom and decide which, if any, of the records are relevant.

Vorenberg: Before trial you make motions to keep out a victim’s private information. What about during the trial? Do you take steps to protect the victim’s privacy?

Saffo: We really are in a new era right now. We not only protect the victim in court, we also try to protect the victim in the media and no one really knows how to control that right now. We can ask the judge to limit live tweeting, and we can file motions to seal victims’ names. The judge may not grant these requests if the victim is an adult, although with the new reality of social media harassment of adult sexual assault victims, that request may be granted

Vorenberg: How about post-trial, whether there’s an acquittal or a conviction, is there anything you do on behalf of the victim?

Saffo: We make sure they have a support network and ensure that the victim-witness coordinator is available for them. However, we don’t want to presume that we are going to be the best support person for them, whether the verdict is guilty or not guilty, or in the case of a hung jury. So, it’s being there but not presuming that we are going to be the right resource.

……………………………………………………………………………………………..

There was much more to talk about, but Attorney Saffo had a busy day ahead of her. The work she and so many others in law enforcement are doing to make the justice system more effective in rape cases was evident in our conversation.

This might be one reason why we are hearing powerful statements from victims who may feel the support of the system behind them. Recently, in a New Hampshire courtroom, a teen victim faced the man who admitted to kidnapping and sexually assaulting her over a period of nine months before she managed to escape. Her courageous statement included these words:

“I want you to know that I did not do this to you,” she said. “I didn’t put you in prison. You put yourself in prison.”


amy vAmy Vorenberg is a Research and Evaluation Consultant at Prevention Innovations Research Center, and the Director of the Legal Writing Program at the University of New Hampshire Law School. She began her legal career in New York as a Manhattan Assistant District Attorney. Later she worked as an Assistant Attorney General in New Hampshire. She moved to the NH Public Defender’s office in 1993 during which time she started the criminal clinic at the University of New Hampshire School of Law (then Franklin Pierce). She served for ten years on the New Hampshire Adult Parole Board. Amy started teaching Legal Analysis and Writing in 1998. She has also taught Criminal Law. Amy’s research and scholarship focus is legal writing, juvenile and criminal law. She is currently working on a three-volume legal writing practice-based textbook, “Preparing for Practice: Legal Analysis and Writing in Law School’s First Year” (working title). She has written editorials and spoken out on campus sexual assault.

Lara SaffoLara J. Saffo, JD is the County Attorney in Grafton County, New Hampshire.  She has prosecuted hundreds of cases involving all types of crimes, and has specialized in sexual assault and domestic violence cases, as well as alternative sentencing solutions, such as drug court, mental health court, veteran’s courts and juvenile diversion/restorative justice. She graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Law in Nashville Tennessee in 1992.  She began her career as a prosecutor in 1993, as an Assistant County Attorney and district court prosecutor.  Attorney Saffo then became an associate, civil attorney at Van Dorn & Curtis, PLLC in Orford New Hampshire.  She returned to prosecution in 2004.  From that time, until she became county attorney in 2009, she was the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) prosecutor at the Office of the Grafton County Attorney. She currently serves as an advisory board member for the Grafton and Sullivan County Child Advocacy Center at DHMC, involved in initiates to expand Sexual Assault Resource Teams in Grafton County, the prosecution representative on the state-wide committee for Justice Involved Veterans, a member of the protocol review committees for the Adult Sexual Assault Protocols and Human Trafficking Protocols, a member of the NH Attorney General’s Commission to Combat Human Trafficking and an adjunct professor at Plymouth State University and White Mountain Community College.

Gender Essentialism, Engaging Men in Sexual Assault Awareness, & Walk a Mile in Her Shoes®

By LB Klein, Jen Przewoznik & Jeff Segal

*This post first appeared on Stop Street Harassment.*

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Every April, men all over the country stumble through public parks in high heels to raise awareness for the gender-based violence movement for Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Walk a Mile in Her Shoes has been a staple of SAAM programming since 2001, and has been praised for engaging tens of thousands of men in conversations on gender, power, and sexual assault in an accessible and fun way. Men have embraced Walk a Mile in Her Shoes®—it’s very often the SAAM event with the most men in attendance, and its popularity has raised necessary funds for rape crisis centers and other national and international anti-violence organizations. However, many activists and organizers have begun to voice serious concerns over the popular event.

It is vital that we consider not only the intent but the impact of our sexual assault awareness events. In Walk a Mile in Her Shoes®, men step into high heels to show their solidarity with women. Wearing high heels is therefore equated with being a woman. But while some women wear high heels, many do not. Furthermore, women are often targeted specifically because they express themselves outside of the normative societal expectations of their gender. By equating high heels and women, we remove gender non-conforming women from our conversations about sexual violence entirely, and reinforce the common myth that people presenting in ways considered masculine are not vulnerable to violence. Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® positions women as victims and men as perpetrators, but there are survivors of all gender identities, including men.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® also creates spaces where transgender people are marginalized. National transgender rights organization Forge (http://forge-forward.org/2013/04/walk-a-mile/) says participants in the walk should consider “whether they are re-victimizing more than a third of all victims by ignoring their very existence.” According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (http://www.thetaskforce.org/static_html/downloads/reports/reports/ntds_full.pdf), 64% of transgender people have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Transgender women are often incorrectly and offensively described as “men wearing women’s clothing,” a description that is often used to justify violence against them. Transgender women, particularly those of color, are at disproportionate risk of experiencing not only sexual and intimate partner violence but also street harassment, police brutality, homelessness, joblessness, incarceration, and murder. It is vital for people working to end gender-based violence to closely ally with transgender and non-binary people instead of holding events that exclude and further marginalize them.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® has raised attention, awareness, and funds, but at what expense? We cannot afford to raise awareness by perpetuating an essentialist view of what people should wear or how they should look and act. The Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® narrative is accessible because it is reductive, and oversimplification in our work is dangerous. Of course, communities should still hold events to raise awareness, but we must be intentional about changing the norms that perpetuate violence instead of reinforcing them. Events that re-victimize, erase, or marginalize survivors do not have a place in our field.

So, what can we do instead to engage men during SAAM? We can hold events that encourage folks of all genders to work together. We can bring smaller groups of men together for meaningful conversation, or mobilize larger groups for fundraisers not built around reinforcing harmful gender norms. Perhaps, as Forge (http://forge-forward.org/2013/04/walk-a-mile/) suggests, we should hold events that encourage everyone to break stereotypes about gender and discuss how harmful gender norms perpetuate violence. Then, we will be raising awareness of the true message of the movement to end sexual assault: that to end sexual assault, we must change culture.


LB_Klein

LB Klein, MSW has dedicated her professional and academic life to ending gender-based violence, supporting survivors, and advancing social justice. She is a Consultant and Lead Trainer for Prevention Innovations Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. She is based in Atlanta, GA and will begin pursuing a doctorate in the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this August.

 

JenP

Jen Przewoznik, MSW has over 15 years of experience working with/in women’s and LGBTQ communities as an educator, trainer, technical assistance provider, practitioner, and program evaluator. She is founder of the Queer Research Consulting Collaborative, a project designed to consult with researchers studying LGBTQ issues. Jen is currently the Director of Prevention & Evaluation at the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault and co-chairs the NC Sexual Violence Prevention Team and the NC Campus Consortium.

JeffSegalJeff Segal, BS resides in NYC, where he works in the tech sector and moonlights as a professional dancer. He has been a part of the movement to end sexual violence for ten years. Jeff has four years of experience as a sexual violence crisis counselor, and currently is leading initiatives to make social dancing in New York a safer space.

 

How Do We Know If It Works? Measuring Outcomes in Bystander-Focused Abuse Prevention on Campuses

PIRCResearch Summary

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The use of bystander education programs (including Prevention Innovations Research Center’s (PIRC) Bringing in the Bystander ® In-Person Prevention Program) to prevent sexual and relationship violence and stalking is increasingly common, and as more colleges and other institutions adopt these programs, better means of evaluating them are needed. Since the programs focus on preparedness, attitudes, and behavior changes, evaluations should test their effects in these areas. Research that helps develop reliable means for testing the impact of bystander education programs is important for demonstrating program efficacy—hence the article title, How do we know if it works? Banyard, Moynihan, Cares, and Warner—a team of two psychologists and two sociologists—have developed several potential instruments for measuring the attitudes and behaviors that bystander programs target. Measures like these make it possible to assess bystander education programs by allowing comparison between peoples’ attitudes and behaviors before and after participation in a program.

The bystander intervention framework addresses shortfalls in earlier prevention efforts by emphasizing the community behaviors and attitudes that create a culture of respect and collective responsibility for preventing violence. Informing people about sexual assault, empowering them to speak out against it, and giving them tools to help prevent violence has the potential to create safer campus cultures. New programs have developed faster than evaluation metrics, and the authors of this study created and tested several possible means of evaluating a program’s efficacy. (See Banyard, 2015; Banyard, 2008; and Banyard, Plante, and Moynihan, 2004 for more information on developing metrics). Three of the proposed bystander-focused measures gather responses on self-reported attitudes, and a fourth gathers responses on self-reported behavior.

Drawing on responses from 948 first-year students at two U.S. universities, the authors investigated the psychometric properties of four key measures of bystander action. Since asking someone, “are you now prepared to be a good bystander?” is unlikely to prove informative, several steps of evaluation are needed to determine whether a person has internalized the intended messages of bystander intervention training. The authors drew on related research that established the validity and reliability of several approaches to measuring participant attitudes and behaviors, and tested their reliability and validity with this population. Their aim was to see if the measurements were equally valid and reliable for testing the attitudes and behaviors that bystander education programs aim to encourage as they had been in other contexts.

The Readiness to Help scale is revised from a 36-item assessment of readiness for change (Banyard, Eckstein, and Moynihan, 2010), and re-named Readiness to Help. Designed to gauge participants’ awareness of a problem and their willingness to take responsibility for addressing it, the scale consists of 12 parallel items related to sexual abuse, relationship abuse, and stalking. It asks respondents to rate how likely they are to perform those actions on a 5-point scale, ranging from 1 (not at all likely) to 5 (extremely likely). This metric was broken down into subscales for Action, Responsibility, and Awareness.

Perceptions of Peer Helping drew on a series of 20 questions developed for this study that asked participants to indicate how likely their friends were to help in various ways in different situations, on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 (not at all likely) to 5 (extremely likely).

Intent to Help Friends and Intent to Help Strangers uses a set of 38 actions related to helping friends and 41 actions related to helping strangers to measures attitudes or willingness to help in situations where there is risk for sexual assault or relationship abuse. It is based on a shorter, 51-question scale by Banyard (2008) that showed good reliability and construct validity.

Bystander behaviors directed at friends and strangers was assessed using a set of 49 actions related to helping friends and 49 actions related to helping strangers that could be taken in situations where there is an apparent risk for sexual assault or relationship abuse. This scale builds on an earlier, shorter version developed by Banyard (2008).

The results from this study indicate that “readiness to help…, intent to be an active bystander, self-reported bystander responses, and perceptions of peer norms in support of action all showed adequate reliability and validity” (101).

The researchers also noted that this particular study relied on notions of what helping looks like in a university context, and was designed with a student lifestyle in mind, where attending parties features prominently. As assessment measures mature, researchers will need new evaluation strategies that reflect different cultural contexts. The metrics developed in this study, and related ones, are available in full on PIRC’s website http://cola.unh.edu/prevention-innovations-research-center/evidence-based-initiatives#BEM. The study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 


Banyard, V.L. (2015). Toward the Next Generation of Bystander Prevention of Sexual and Relationship Violence: Action Coils to Engage Communities. New York, NY: Springer Publications.

Banyard, V. L., Moynihan, M. M., Cares, A. C., & Warner, R. (2014). How Do We Know If It Works? Measuring Outcomes in Bystander-Focused Abuse Prevention on Campuses. Psychology of Violence 4: 101-115.

Banyard, V. L. (2008). Measurement and Correlates of Prosocial Bystander Behavior: The Case of Interpersonal Violence. Violence and Victims, 23, 83– 97.

Banyard, V. L., Eckstein, R. P., & Moynihan, M. M. (2010). Involving Community in Sexual Violence Prevention: The Role of Stages of Change. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 25, 111–135.

Banyard, V. L., Plante, E. G., & Moynihan, M. M. (2004). Bystander Education: Bringing a Broader Community Perspective to Sexual Violence Prevention, Journal of Community Psychology, 32, 61-79.

 

 

Public Policy:  Prevention or Harm?

By Grace Mattern

PIRC Research to Practice Specialist

Author and Nonprofit Advisor

www.gracemattern.com

[Left Photo Source & Right Photo Source]

In the late 1990’s the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) worked with the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (NHCADSV) to amend New Hampshire’s child abuse statute to provide what everyone hoped would be increased safety for abused children and women.  Wouldn’t tougher penalties for abusers who violated stay-away orders make battered women and their children safer?

At the time I was working with Susan Schechter, a pioneer of the battered women’s movement, on another initiative—a national project to address the intersection of intimate partner violence and child abuse.  I asked her what she thought about the proposed policy change in New Hampshire.

“We should be trying to enforce the laws we already have,” Susan said.  “We don’t need more laws, we need to change how communities keep women and children safe.”

The law was changed. It didn’t improve enforcement of orders and it led to disagreements between DCYF and NHCADSV about an advocate’s role in reporting violations of orders.  Putting a criminal penalty in a civil statute—designed to outline the state’s work with families to heal abuse and reunite children with their biological parents—didn’t work, and it didn’t make children and battered women any safer.

The development of sex offender registries is another public policy initiative that was meant to protect children, but has turned out to be harmful in too many instances.  Sex offender registries were established with the belief that parents and the public could keep children safe if they knew where all the sex offenders were.  The instinct was protective.

But in reality, the most likely offender of any child is a family member or friend: someone from the community you would expect you could trust. In a third of cases the offender is another child, according to the National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth.  In many states a juvenile convicted of a sex crime, no matter how unjust or misguided the conviction, is subject to a lifetime on a public sex offender registry.

In The New Yorker, Sarah Stillman recounts troubling stories of the children, some as young as 10 at the time of their offense, who are on public registries. The negative consequences they face include vigilante violence against them and their families, misguided and ineffective treatment, and crippling discrimination in education and employment.  Criminalizing trauma-related behavior by a child, and publicly identifying that child as a sex offender, doesn’t prevent child abuse. It perpetrates it through policy.

To be clear, I’m not making an argument against sex offender registries.  I’m pointing out that when we advocate for policy changes we believe will help protect victims, we need to think as creatively as we can about the ways policy changes might be harmful to vulnerable people.  If we can identify potential unintended negative consequences then we can advocate for policies that minimize unintended harm as much as possible.

After trying for too long to find justice for victims in the criminal justice system, advocates in the battered women’s movement learned that justice can never be fully realized by any system of government. No matter how well-crafted the policy, government retains the authority to implement it however it wants, including in racist and sexist ways.  We criminalized domestic violence and advocated for the police to put batterers in jail, and the men who ended up incarcerated were disproportionally black or poor or both.

As a movement, we hope to learn from our mistakes.  The emphasis on criminal justice responses to intimate partner violence and sexual assault shifted years ago, with more attention on other systems—medical, mental health, community-based, child welfare, public assistance—as places to advocate for the support of survivors and their families.

There is growing recognition across child sexual assault victim rights groups and groups of family members affected by the registry of juveniles, such as Women Against Registry, that reform is needed.  Stacie Rumenap of Stop Child Predators, talking about lobbying for states to adopt registries, told Stillman, “Never in our wildest dreams were we going state by state asking lawmakers to punish juveniles.”

We need to have wild dreams when we advocate for new policies so we make as few mistakes as possible.

 

For more information on state registry laws and juveniles, please visit the Center for Sex Offender Management.


matternGrace S. Mattern was Executive Director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence for 30 years. She has been actively involved with public policy and systems advocacy to promote effective community interventions in response to domestic and sexual violence and coordinated a statewide network of programs that assist victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. She served on the Governor’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence, Chairing the Research Committee. She has also served on the Attorney General’s Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect, the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee, the National Greenbook Policy Advisory Council, and on numerous Boards of Directors, including the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the NH Network of Child Advocacy Centers and the NH Coalition to End Homelessness. She is currently the Vice-President of the Board of Directors of the NH Center for Nonprofits and is a member of the Advisory Board of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

 

 

Surviving Sexual Assault is Expensive

By LB Klein, MSW
*Read a response to this post from Dr. Patrick Brugh here*
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Surviving sexual assault is not only devastating to survivors’ bodies, minds, and spirits; it can also bankrupt them. Supporting survivors means thinking critically about how to alleviate the financial burden of being sexually assaulted. Economic justice is a critical component of building more survivor-supportive cultures.
Sexual assault survivors have bills and long-term financial losses. Those bills can start with the cost of medical care. Survivors may not even go to the hospital because their families cannot afford medical care or because they are concerned that a parent or guardian will receive the bill, forcing them to tell family members about the assault before they are ready. Vital mental health support, or transportation to get to no-cost or sliding scale services, costs money. Purchasing the morning-after pill or prophylaxis to fight sexually transmitted infections requires funds.  
These are just the immediate costs of navigating the health consequences of sexual assault. The long-term costs continue to add up. Survivors may need to treat a sexually transmitted infection, and some infections have lifelong costs, such as HIV. A survivor may become pregnant and could incur the cost of terminating the pregnancy or raising a child. Ongoing therapy bills pile up, or survivors may postpone mental health services because counseling is just too expensive. If survivors choose to report sexual assault or rape to the police, they incur costs in that process, from phone bills to talk to the police, to plane tickets to return to a former city of residence for a court date, to more significant expenses like hiring an attorney.

Moreover, trauma is costly. It is challenging enough to juggle work or school or care taking responsibilities without having survived trauma. Survivors miss work shifts, job interviews, final exams, study abroad opportunities because of the psychological toll of surviving sexual assault. If a survivor chooses to withdraw for the semester to take time to heal, their tuition, housing costs, and fees are rarely reimbursed. Many employers will not accommodate the time away that survivors might need to cope and heal. Seeking justice through a campus conduct or criminal legal system or seeking an order of protection takes time away from work or school. Delays in academics, employment, and promotion opportunities increase a survivor’s financial burden.
Due to fear of the perpetrator, lack of support, or debilitating symptoms of post-traumatic stress, survivors may drop out of school or be unable to continue in their jobs entirely. They may be fired. They may be expelled from school, or fail out. Survivors who are in romantic relationships with their perpetrators might also face ongoing abuse, including economic abuse. Losing opportunities at work or school may also make survivors more dependent on abusive partners or family members. Failing grades, not finishing a degree, or having a poor track record at work can then directly impact a survivor’s earning potential for the rest of her life.
Researcher Matt DeLisi estimated that each rape costs $151,423, which is compounded if survivors are repeatedly victimized (see: Costs, Consequences and Solutions). Survivors are charged for surviving rape, and those bills often continue long after the immediate aftermath of an incident. To build survivor-supportive communities, we must consider survivors’ needs holistically, including financial needs. To alleviate these costs, we must ensure survivors have swift access to accommodations such as changing classes or housing, shifting work schedules, taking time off to heal, access to medical and mental health services, and refunds on tuition. We must call on schools and employers to not only provide accommodations and support, but to provide them free of charge. We must agitate for survivors to have access to confidential survivor advocates or mental health benefits to help alleviate trauma and its associated financial costs. Beyond the initial aftermath of sexual assault, we must ensure that our schools, workplaces, and communities are invested in survivors’ financial well being for the long haul.
It is imperative that communities invest in preventing sexual assault. Until we can end violence, however, survivors will continue to face significant costs. In the meantime, we can at least work to create systems that keep survivors from being charged for surviving rape.

LB_KleinLB Klein, MSW is a Consultant and Lead Trainer for Prevention Innovations Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. She primarily builds the capacity of institutions of higher education and communities to implement the Bringing in the Bystander Program. She is based in Atlanta, GA and will begin pursuing a doctorate in the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this Fall.

Society’s Survival Guide to Not Getting Assaulted

Why I shouldn’t have to be startled by my own shadow…

By Emily Hammerman, B.A.

*Originally published on the Catharsis Productions Blog on April 21st, 2016*

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It is 8pm on a Wednesday. Location: CTA Tunnel.

I’m wearing black leggings and a long jacket. One of my headphones blasts an old Blink-182 anthem in my ear and the other hangs down my chest getting lost in the frill of my scarf. I reach a hand up to fish it out and twirl it around my un-manicured finger while my other hand clings tightly to the set of keys in my pocket. I survey my fellow commuters and check the train tracker app on my phone. Due.

My train arrives, flying fast and past me until it comes to a stop, and I breathe a sigh of relief. Not because it finally arrived, but because no one pushed me in front of it.

I would not categorize myself as paranoid. Sure, I participate in the occasional glance behind my back, the quick hand to my purse to ensure my wallet is still there, and every so often I jump at the sight of my shadow. But paranoia? Not a condition I suffer from. Something I do suffer from, however, is the backlash of being a woman in a culture obsessed with fearing assault.

Let me break it down. I don’t expect anyone to push me in front of the Red Line train to Howard. In fact, I truly believe that most people have genuine natures, kind hearts, and good intentions. Why would someone want to hurt me?

But it’s not about whether or not I believe someone will hurt me. In fact, according to our society, it’s not even about that “someone” at all. It’s about how I am considered solely responsible for how other people decide to treat me. It’s about it being my fault for putting myself in dangerous situations that welcome others to attack me. It’s about how instead of teaching human beings to not inflict harm on one another, the world has spent its entire career training me to avoid becoming the victim of assault.

Backwards, much?

Let’s rewind.

Around 7:41pm I prepared to leave my apartment to go to dance rehearsal. I threw on a pair of black leggings and a t-shirt and reapplied a natural shade of pink lipstick. Random choices? Quite the contrary. The lighter lipstick draws less attention than the edgy deep burgundy I’d really prefer to wear and the black leggings slim my plump rump down to an appropriate size for the public eye.

If the black color wasn’t enough to hide the invitation to attack me otherwise known as my behind, I made sure to slip on my sweater jacket that falls just above the knee. Conservatively dressed women don’t get raped, says society. I winked at myself in the hall mirror, thankful for the tip.

On went my handy dandy running shoes. Not only would they be helpful should I need to run for my life, but they allow me to walk at the quick pace I need to maintain in order to appear that I am confident about where I am going, and walking with a Don’t-Mess-With-Me purpose. Sometimes I add in a stank-face just for fun. It’s important to repel anyone who crosses my path.

Next, I pulled the strap of my purse over my head so that it stretched across my torso, the bag resting against my hip. I did this because it makes it much more difficult for someone to strip it away from me, as opposed to the easy access style of simply stringing it over my shoulder. That’s amateur stuff right there. A woman should know better than that.

After I triple checked that my purse was fully zipped and that I had everything I needed, I prepared to take the leap that would force me into the unknown: a misty, dark metropolis where all is silent but the squeak of a rat and my lone hollow footsteps. The streets are barren, a post-apocalyptic concrete jungle where the only witnesses to my probable attack are the faceless mannequins who hover over the sidewalks through glass. It is a perilous place, this unknown. One where the key I use to enter my home is now the key I use to shank my rapist. One where every man becomes the villain, and every look misinterpreted, judgements and unprovoked fears clouding my grasp on reality.

I mustered the courage to embark through this unknown and opened my apartment door. The journey was treacherous and full of terrors, but I luckily made it to the Red Line tunnel where I waited and eventually successfully boarded the train.

No one pushed me in front of it.

Society would call this a miracle; a job well done on taking the necessary precautions to protect myself from all the forces of evil this world has to offer. But let’s play out a different scenario. What if I had gotten pushed by evil?

Would the headline read “Young Woman Gets Pushed Onto Tracks” or “Girl Falls, Too Close to the Edge”?

On the train, my stop approaches, and I stand to walk towards the door. The eyes of a man who was sitting across from me follow my strides and I realize that my jacket hiked up to reveal my leggings from the butt down.

Gasp.

I quickly pull down my jacket. The man stares. As soon as the doors part ways I’m off the train and hurrying to the exit, my running shoes thankfully serving their function. This was a close call, society has taught me. I survived tonight, but maybe the next time I leave my apartment, I should consider wearing a different pair of pants.

You know, pants that would prevent me from being assaulted.


Emily Catharsis

Emily Hammerman, B.A., is a proud graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Cinema Art + Science and a double minor in Dance and Fiction Writing. She works as a Marketing Intern for Catharsis Productions, a position that allows her to explore the intricacies of human behavior and relationships and create meaningful work to share with the community. An artist passionate about story, Emily finds inspiration in a variety of creative disciplines and draws from each to construct engaging characters, compelling relationships, and authentic narratives. As she continues to grow professionally, she hopes to educate and inspire audiences while further developing a unique voice and style!

 

Minority stress and intimate partner violence in the LGBTQ community: Is there a connection?

PIRCResearch Summary

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We know that intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs in heterosexual relationships on college and university campuses, and there is a large body of research examining this phenomenon. IPV takes place in same-sex relationships as well: in a nationally representative survey of college and university students in same-sex relationships, 21% of respondents said that they had been victims of psychological violence in their relationships, and 24% had been victims of physical violence. Still, to date there has been far less research on IPV in same-sex relationships on college campuses than on IPV in heterosexual relationships. As a result, there is less information available on what factors may increase risk for IPV in same-sex relationships.

The risk factors for IPV are similar in same-sex and heterosexual relationships. However, minority stress factors in the LGBTQ community, such as sexual-orientation-related victimization, stigma surrounding sexual minorities, internalized homonegativity, and sexual identity concealment, pose additional risk. UNH psychologists Katie Edwards and Kateryna Sylaska hypothesized that minority stress—that is, stress factors that members of minority communities are likely to experience—plays a role in the perpetration of IPV in same-sex relationships. They surveyed a group of college students in same-sex relationships to test their hypothesis, and reported their results in the article “The Perpetration of Intimate Partner Violence among LGBTQ College Youth: The Role of Minority Stress,” which appeared in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence in 2013.

Edwards and Sylaska recruited 391 university students from across the US to participate in an online survey on IPV. All of the survey respondents were currently in relationships with people of the same sex. Their survey asked respondents whether they had used psychological, physical, sexual, and sexual orientation-related violence in their relationships, and also asked about the participants’ experience of both externalized and internalized minority stress variables. The minority stress variables that they asked about were victimization related to sexual orientation, the perception of prejudice or discrimination toward LGBTQ persons, internalized homonegativity, and identity concealment.

In their responses, 29.7% of the participants reported perpetrating some kind of violence against their partner. Edwards and Sylaska’s data showed a relationship between internalized homonegativity—that is, feeling guilty or ashamed about one’s sexual orientation—and physical and sexual violence perpetration. It also showed a relationship between sexual identity concealment and physical violence perpetration. Neither internalized homonegativity nor sexual identity concealment was related to psychological violence perpetration, and sexual identity concealment was not related to sexual violence perpetration.

In their discussion of the findings, Edwards and Sylaska make a point of mentioning that 73% of their respondents reported experiencing verbal or physical harassment related to their sexual orientation. Addressing and alleviating these minority stress factors is essential for preventing IPV among LGBTQ college students. Changing attitudes on a societal level to be more accepting and tolerant of sexual minority individuals and addressing the negative effects of these stresses through positive youth development programming for LGBTQ youth are a critical component to IPV prevention.


Edwards, K. M. & Sylaska, K. M. (2013). The perpetration of intimate partner violence among LGBTQ college youth: The role of minority stress. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42, 1721-1731. DOI 10.1007/s10964-012-9880-6

Embracing Digital Bystander Intervention

By Nora Draper, Ph.D

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This past week, a horrific story highlighted the complicated relationship between social media, sexual assault, and bystander intervention. An 18-year old Ohio woman has been indicted on multiple charges, including rape and distribution of sexual materials involving a minor, for broadcasting the rape of another young woman with the live-streaming app Periscope.

Mobile app Periscope allows people to stream real-time video to viewers around the world. This use of Periscope to broadcast an incident of sexual assault is a recent example of social media platforms being used to facilitate and publicize abuse. Stories about cyberbullying, revenge porn, and fraping (taking over someone’s social media profile without their knowledge or consent), show how digital and mobile tools have the potential to enable online harassment. Despite the qualifier “digital” or “cyber,” the consequences of digital harassment almost always cross the largely artificial boundaries between the online and offline worlds.

Certainly, digital platforms have the potential to facilitate anti-social and even illegal behaviors. The story above, however, calls attention to the important and often overlooked ways that social media tools can be—and often are—deployed to support positive practices. In an act of digital bystander intervention, a viewer who saw the Periscope feed reportedly contacted authorities to report the rape. As prevention campaigns turn their attention to the role bystanders can play by intervening to deter or stop sexual assault, there is an opportunity to rethink how digital and mobile technologies are already used as tools for intervention, and incorporate these strategies into intervention campaigns. Indeed, as Communication researcher Carrie Rentschler has recently written, online bystanders can themselves be culpable in the perpetration of digital violence.

Smartphones, which are in the pockets of 85% of young adults, are often seen as encouraging frivolous behavior. Such framing, however, ignores smartphones’ empowering potential as tools for media production and accessing information. Given the ubiquity of these devices, it is essential that bystander intervention campaigns begin to focus on how these tools can turn witnessing into digital and mobile action.

Digital bystander intervention need not be exclusively the kind of crisis intervention witnessed in the story above. Bystander intervention programs, such as the University of New Hampshire’s Bringing in the Bystander ® In-Person Prevention Program, focus on the need for intervention along the spectrum of abuse, from microaggressions to sexual violence. The digital environment is full of opportunities for intervention. From the comments sections under news articles to social media pages, there are myriad platforms for small forms of digital bystander intervention. The types of intervention often marginalized as slacktivism— actions such as voting down sexist content, flagging harassing posts for review, and posting supportive comments—all have the potential to support a growing culture of digital intervention.


Nora_Draper_HeadshotNora Draper, Ph.D, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of New Hampshire. Her research examines the complexities of authenticity, privacy, identity, and reputation in the digital era through frames of cultural theory, critical institutionalism, and public policy. Her work explores how identity, particularly gender, race, class, and sexuality, shape experiences of privacy, surveillance, and visibility in a digital environment. Her work has been published in the International Journal of Communication, Critical Studies in Media Communication, the Journal of Children and Media, and Surveillance & Society.