Senator Shaheen Stands with Survivors this DVAM

By Senator Jeanne Shaheen

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On October 7th, 2016, just over a year after my initial meeting with sexual assault survivor Amanda Nguyen, my legislation to establish basic rights for survivors of sexual assault was signed into law by President Obama. The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act, also known as the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act of 2016, creates the first federally codified rights specifically for sexual assault survivors, and for the first time would allow survivors the opportunity to enforce those rights in federal court. Today I can say with certainty that our nation’s laws stand firmly on the side of sexual assault survivors. The basic rights in this new law include:

  • The right to have a sexual assault evidence collection kit preserved without charge for the entire relevant statute of limitations.
  • The right to be notified in writing 60 days prior to the destruction of a sexual assault evidence collection kit.
  • The right to request further preservation of a sexual assault evidence collection kit.
  • The right to be informed of important results of a sexual assault forensic examination.
  • The right to not be charged for a forensic exam.

While the journey to pass this groundbreaking legislation was a relatively short one, it follows a long path of survivors and advocates calling for change in our system. And when Amanda Nguyen walked into my office last summer and shared her heartbreaking story, I knew that changes had to be made to ensure the justice system was on survivors’ side. So, we got to work on legislation and with input from Amanda Nguyen and dozens of nationally-recognized experts in the sexual assault advocacy community, we developed a bill that garnered incredible bipartisan and bicameral support, shuttling it all the way to the President’s desk.

Amidst the partisan bickering and gridlock in Congress, this law demonstrates that citizens can still effect positive change and that bipartisan progress is still possible. Sexual assault remains one of the most underreported crimes and I hope that these basic rights will encourage more survivors to come forward and pursue justice. Make no mistake, there’s still much more work to be done to change the culture around sexual assault, and I will continue to lead efforts in the Senate for survivors like Amanda.


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Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, is a U.S. Senator from New Hampshire.

To read Senator Shaheen’s full bio, click here

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Tech Safety App Protects Users from Online Harassment and Abuse

By Taylor Flagg

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The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) developed the Tech Safety App as an educational resource on issues regarding harassment via technology. There is no one right way to respond when faced with harassment, stalking or abuse through technology, and this app is not a comprehensive safety plan, as each instance of harassment or abuse calls for a specific solution.

Technology poses a unique problem with regard to harassment. Harassment and abuse through technology can often be isolating and difficult to escape due to the nature of the medium. Victims and law enforcement authorities may not be able to identify perpetrators if they hide behind technology, which can make escaping the situation even more difficult. As the Tech Safety App points out, “Just because the harassment isn’t in person doesn’t mean that it doesn’t feel or is any less real or threatening.” Even though harassment and abuse occur through technology they are still harassment and abuse, and may be considered criminal behavior.

When you open the app, there are six subjects you can click on to explore: cell phone safety, device safety, harassment, impersonation, location safety, and online safety. When you click on each subject, the app outlines steps you can take, safety tips, and resources available regarding that particular issue. Resources available in the app include tips for reacting and responding to harassment and abuse through technology, including documenting evidence, talking with an advocate, talking to the police, and finding an attorney.

The app is easy to use, and has a helpful function called “Find My Way.” When you open the app, the “Find My Way” bar provides users with a step-by-step menu on where to begin. You may not be sure under which of the categories your particular problem falls, and this function addresses that obstacle. The “Find My Way” option begins with five common reasons people may want to use the app: “I need help and someone to talk to,” “I am worried about harassment or stalking,” “I am worried that someone knows too much,” “I want tips on how to increase my privacy,” and “I want someone to know what’s happening.” Clicking on any of the choices brings users to further step-by-step options designed to help them find what they are looking for. This is a great function for those unsure of where to start.

Everyone can benefit from this app. It is a wonderful tool for anyone who may be experiencing harassment via technology themselves or have friends or family members who are having this experience. It is also a wonderful educational tool for those who want to learn about a widespread issue that can affect anyone. It educates users on the nature and dynamics of harassment and abuse through technology, and includes informative descriptions of various tactics used by abusers. For instance, did you know that a phone’s Caller ID can be manipulated to hide the real phone number of the caller? Perpetrators can use various technological services to change the phone number, their voice, add background noise, or record harassing or abusive phone calls. This can make it incredibly difficult to identify the perpetrator. The Tech Safety App tells users about such practices and explains that state and federal laws forbid someone from manipulating caller ID with the intent to harass or harm another individual. It also notes that there are services that can expose masked Caller ID numbers and reveal the actual number of the caller.

The app reminds users that safety is most important. If you believe you may be harassed or abused through technology, or are being threatened, consider whether the harassing, threatening or abusive person may be able to learn that you are seeking resources or information, and whether he/she may be likely to escalate their abusive or harassing behavior upon discovering you are seeking information or support. If yes, or if you are not sure, Tech Safety encourages users to use this app from a device to which an abusive person does not have access.

If you are interested in downloading the Tech Safety App, visit techsafetyapp.org for more information.


tf-picTaylor Flagg, B.A., is a Graduate Student in the Justice Studies Program at the University of New Hampshire and a Graduate Researcher at Prevention Innovations Research Center. Taylor earned her B.A. in both History and Justice Studies from the University of New Hampshire. Her passions in social justice are concentrated in global crime and inequalities facing women. She hopes to enter a career in social justice following completion of her degree.

 

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

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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 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.


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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.

 

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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.

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.

Why Don’t Survivors Just Report Sexual Assault to the Police?

By LB Klein, MSW

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[Photo courtesy of morgueFile]

According to the Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey, 68% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. There are many reasons why a survivor might choose not to report an assault, or to stop pursuing a case after reporting it. Every survivor’s healing process or sense of justice is different, and it’s always the survivor’s right to choose whether or not to report sexual violence to law enforcement. The following are just some of the reasons that survivors may choose not to report:

  • Survivors might feel embarrassed about what happened, or want to avoid publicly discussing sexual acts or repeating the story over and over again.
  • Survivors often blame themselves or believe others will blame them.
  • Survivors might believe that involving the police or criminal legal system could lead to time-consuming and invasive processes with little chance of tangible results. They might also worry that these lengthy processes could delay their recovery.
  • Survivors might worry that the criminal legal system will find the perpetrator not guilty, making the reporting seem like an unnecessary and demoralizing ordeal. This might lead survivors to feel even less safe having gone through these systems. Failed legal cases can make survivors feel even more at fault, and as if no one believes them.
  • Survivors might not want others to find out about what happened, or to become targets for gossip or retaliation. Survivors might fear both physical retaliation and social consequences that could inhibit moving forward with their lives.
  • Survivors might not want their families, significant others, or friends to find out for fear that they will worry, become overly protective, blame them, retaliate against the perpetrator, or insist that they leave certain environments like school or work.
  • Survivors may not recognize that what happened to them was sexual assault or rape. They likely know and sometimes care about the person(s) who committed these acts. They might want help or support, but would not want to pursue actions that label what happened as “rape.”
  • If the perpetrator is found guilty of committing a sexual assault and receives a significant punishment, the survivor may face retaliation from other members of the community for getting someone in trouble.
  • The survivor may have been threatened by the perpetrator or be frightened of the perpetrator.
  • Survivors may fear compromising or complicating relationships with mutual friends.
  • The survivor may fear that others won’t believe an assault occurred. A common reaction from friends or family members that the survivor might have experienced is disbelief—that situations like this could not possibly happen. Another common reaction is to blame and scrutinize the survivors’ behavior, making the survivor reluctant to report assaults in future.
  • The survivor may have already had a bad experience with legal systems or have a criminal record, or know someone else who has been victimized by the system.
  • The survivor might not have the resources to pay the legal fees that are sometimes associated with reporting.
  • Survivors from communities of color, immigrant and refugee communities, American Indian and low-income communities may have negative histories with law enforcement perpetrating state violence against them or their communities and may not view law enforcement and the criminal justice system as a source of healing, justice, or support.
  • The survivor might be focusing on coping with mental health symptoms, depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, PTSD, academic or work difficulties, and safety concerns, and not have the time, energy, or support to pursue the case. Participation in legal processes often exacerbates these problems rather than alleviates them.
  • The survivor may have been engaging in other embarrassing or illegal activities when the assault occurred, and fears the conduct or legal process will uncover these.
  • If survivors identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or queer, or they were engaging in sexual activity with a person of the same gender at the time of the assault, they may be concerned about being outed if they pursue a legal process.

For these reasons and many more, many survivors do not choose to report to law enforcement. No one should ever force or coerce a survivor into reporting an assault to the police, and it should be a survivor’s decision if and when to report. It is crucial to put survivors’ self-determination at the center in all sexual assault prevention and awareness programming to help survivors regain the power and control taken from them when they were sexually assaulted.  We must continue to validate the experiences of survivors, regardless of whether they ever report to a police officer or spend a day in a courtroom, and to consider ways to address sexual violence outside of criminal legal interventions.


LB_KleinLB Klein, MSW is a Consultant and Lead Trainer for Prevention Innovations Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. In that role, she builds the capacity of institutions of higher education and communities to implement the Bringing in the Bystander Program. She is based in Atlanta, GA.