A Story in Learning to Say No: Part II

By Brooke Davidoff

When I read that this man wanted to come spend the weekend at my apartment, my initial response was to panic. If being on a boardwalk in public with him was uncomfortable, how much worse would it be if we were alone? 

I didn’t own a couch, and I told him I didn’t have anywhere for him to sleep. His response: Will we have privacy? Those words triggered a panic attack from thousands of miles away. I was sweating, and anxiety and fear blanketed me immediately. I pictured myself trying to get away from him, sleeping in my 10-year-old’s room to escape being alone with him.

He was looking at flights and rental cars, sending screen shots of options for his arrival before I had even accepted his offer. I messaged two single male friends to see if I was overreacting, projecting, or reading this wrong. 

I was diagnosed with PTSD over four years ago. I have survived multiple traumas, the majority due to negative, unwanted interactions with men. I realize I am sometimes overly alert and standoffish with men. Maybe he did want to help me move… but his interest in our privacy made me think otherwise. My friends reassured me that he had boundary issues, letting me know I could and should say no.

He had already booked himself a ticket. 

For most of my life I didn’t know how to stand up for myself. I was polite, I ignored red flags. I had since taken multiple classes on trauma and its affects on mental health and I had gone to therapy to help me address my PTSD, yet I still found myself afraid to say no. I still felt more worried about hurting his feelings than about his affect on my physical safety and comfort. I did not feel like my “no” was valid until more than one friend gave me permission to have boundaries.

It was not easy, but I sent him an email to cancel his flight. I didn’t owe him anything but the truth. I did not want him to come.

If a conversation with anyone triggers you, you have every right to not talk to or see them again. From childhood, girls are socialized to be nice and to be more in touch with their own and other people’s feelings. Women often feel a lot of guilt when we hurt others’ feelings, but in actuality: regardless of your gender, you don’t owe anyone anything, and your safety is in your hands. No one has the right to push their wants onto you. You are not here to accommodate others. If you have a gut feeling about someone, listen. 

Other peoples feeling are not more important than yours, and they are not as important as your safety or your piece of mind. Younger me would not have had the courage to say no. Saying no was empowering, I encourage you to try it.

A Story in Learning to Say No: Part I

By Brooke Davidoff

Moving across the country as a single mother is stressful. I moved here in June from Long Beach, California to live with one of my best friends from high school. There ended up not being enough room for my son and I at her place, and I had to hastily relocate without even unpacking. When I had found an apartment and was ready to move my stuff out of my friend’s basement, a male acquaintance in California offered to fly in to help. 

The last time he and I hung out was awful. 

I read his text message inviting himself to my new place. I cringed as his words flashed across my screen. He and I had lived on the same street when we were in middle school. We’re in our early 40’s now and had not seen each other since 8th grade, until that uncomfortable day two years ago. He had driven two hours to see me, and we had spent an afternoon together.

That day, we walked to the beach boardwalk across the street from my apartment. Immediately, he took my hand in his. We had never dated. We had never had a physical relationship. Our text messages had been G-rated, there hadn’t even been flirting. Maybe he’s overly friendly, I thought. 

We walked into an arcade, and my son went to play a video game—the man kissed me. It was random, unwanted and unexpected. I didn’t know how to pull away, and the rest of the afternoon was just as uncomfortable. Every time my son would walk away, this guy was in my face; his hands travelled all over my body like we were a couple.

We were not. 

He went home a few hours later while I sat with my confusion in silence. Questioning myself. Maybe I led him on. Jeans and a t-shirt shouldn’t have given off flirty signals—though I know now nothing I could have worn would have given him permission to touch me. 

Later that night he Facetimed me. He was drunk and begging me to flash him. I said no multiple times, he argued that he wanted to see them. I hung up. I didn’t speak to him for over a year. 

However, like many people, I give others second chances, expecting and hoping they have changed. We began texting again after I moved; I felt safe. He couldn’t drive up the freeway to see me anymore—I had states of distance to protect me.

But now he was inviting himself to my new apartment.

Hear the rest of Brooke’s story in Part II posting tomorrow!

International Anti-Street Harassment Week

By Emma Gilham

Content Warning: sexual assault

“Steam from a New York City street” by pchurch92 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

International Anti-Street Harassment Week is April 11-17, 2021. It is important to recognize this time in Sexual Assault Awareness month. According to a national survey in 2014, 65% of all women had experienced street harassment, and among them 23%  had been sexually touched, 20% had been followed, and 9% had been forced to do something sexual (stopstreetharassment.org ).” While women were more often targets of harassment, 25% of men experienced harassment, commonly with homophobic or transphobic slurs. Street harassment can take form as many behaviors and actions in public spaces, and harassers often resort to sexism, racism, transphobia, xenophobia, and/or ableism. 

Stop Street Harassment is a nonprofit that conducts research, campaigns, and documentation of street harassment worldwide. They also provide resources for organizing, allies, and dealing with harassment. To participate in Anti-Street Harassment Week, they suggest sharing your story or supporting others to raise awareness. The UMKC Women’s Center is holding an anti-street harassment program called Meet Us On The Street. We will be sharing messages against harassment by chalking our sidewalks and sharing photos of them on social media. We are using #UMKCMeetUsOnTheStreet and #StopStreetHarassment to share with the wider community. 

Street harassment is unacceptable, but it is an all too common experience for women. It takes everyone standing up to harassers to help create a safer environment for all. 

 

The Shadow Pandemic

By Mia Lukic

November 30th was White Ribbon Day, a part of the United Nations ongoing 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence which runs from the 25th of November to the 10th of December. This was a day to show solidarity with those who have experienced gender-based violence through signing a white ribbon and sharing the message on social media. Gender based violence is defined as “harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender. It is rooted in gender inequality, the abuse of power and harmful norms” (UNHCR) and is considered “a serious violation of human rights and a life-threatening health and protection issue” by the United Nations Refugee Agency.

While the COVID 19 pandemic changed the circumstances of the event, it also has had a detrimental impact on gender-based violence worldwide. Even before the pandemic, 1 in 3 women experienced physical or sexual violence mostly by an intimate partner (UN Women). The numbers are only increasing due to a multitude of COVID caused changes. The factors include: security, health, and money worries, cramped living conditions, isolation with abusers, movement restrictions, and deserted public places (UN Women)

Statistically, less than 40% of women who experience violence seek help, and during the pandemic calls to helplines in certain countries increased by 5 times (UN Women). What does that mean about the number of cases?

The United Nations has deemed this the Shadow Pandemic. The Coronavirus is without question one of the most difficult things the world has experienced in past years, and the increase in violence against women seems to be a symptom left out of the fact sheets.

PPE or Personal Protective Equipment, takes on a whole new meaning. The CDC recommends wearing a mask and social distancing, but a mask cannot protect from violence, and distance from abusers can be impossible during stay at home orders. So how do we combat this Shadow Pandemic?

The UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said:

 

“I would like to call on your government to make visible at the highest level your commitment to addressing violence against women and girls in the context of COVID-19 by issuing a short statement on social media, in the form of a video message or a short text at the highest possible level, ideally at the level of Head of State/Government, highlighting:

  • Tangible actions undertaken to address violence against women and girls in the context of COVID-19;
  • Future planning policies and actions to implement in this context;
  • Your Government’s commitment to raise awareness on the issue at the national and international levels.” (UN Women)

UN Women stresses the importance of the following during this Shadow Pandemic.

FUND

  • Prioritize funding for a minimum package of essential services and include violence against women prevention in COVID-19 fiscal stimulus packages.
  • Make urgent and flexible funding available for women’s rights organizations working at the nexus of COVID-19 and addressing violence against women

PREVENT

  • Declare national zero tolerance policy for violence against women and girls with a concrete action plan in place
  • Launch a COVID-19 behavior change social mobilization campaign

RESPOND

  • Undertake explicit measures so that services for survivors of violence are maintained as essential
  • Ensure continuum of adequate criminal justice system response.

COLLECT

  • Collect data for improvement of services and programs” (UN Women)

Whether you are calling your representatives to demand they address the Shadow Pandemic, checking in on your loved ones, or fighting your own battle, know you are not alone. For hotline numbers and resources in our area check out the link below:

Domestic and Sexual Violence Resources

Witches Get Stuff Done: The Salem Witch Trials

By Brianna Green

Happy Halloween Roos! Thank you for watching the Witches Get Stuff Done video and for coming to the blog for more information about the Salem Witch Trails!

So, what were the Salem Witch Trails? The Salem Witch Trials were, as the name indicates, witch trails that happened from January 1692 until May 1693. Around 150 people (men, women, and children) were accused of being a witch or using witchcraft. Sadly, 19 people, mainly women, were hanged after being convicted of witchcraft. Outside of the 19 hangings, a man was crushed to death because of his refusal to plead guilty or not guilty, and another 4 people died in prison awaiting trial (Brooks).

What started this mess that lead to 24 people dying? Let’s start with the context of the time. This was the late 1600s. Salem was a rural community that was very religion and had very strict gender roles, especially for women (Hasset-Walker). Not only that, but there had been a smallpox outbreak; they had a rivalry with a nearby community; they had fears about Native American attacks; and they were still dealing with after affects from the British war with France that happened in 1689 (Brooks; Hasset-Walker). They had a lot going on and there was already a lot of tension.

In January of 1692, two young girls (9 and 11) were diagnosed with bewitchment after having “fits” where they would have outbursts of screaming and violent contortions (History.com). After their diagnoses, other girls from the community started experiencing similar fits. Now, the first two girls named who they thought were causing their bewitchment. They named Sarah Good, Sarah Osborn, and a slave named Tituba. Tituba did confess to witchcraft and claimed others were involved; this confession made people go into panic and hysteria (Brooks). Although these were the first people accused, the first trail and execution happened in June of 1962 with the accused Bridget Bishop.

What’s interesting is that these women were considered outcasts before their accusations. For example, Bishop had been accused of witchcraft well before the trails even started (Brooks). Tituba was a slave. Osborn was an elderly widow who remarried a farmhand. And Good was a homeless beggar. These women did not fit the traditional mold women in these communities usually had which would include being proper, religious, married mothers who acted like caregivers (Hasset-Walker).

As you already know, the trails officially ended in May of 1693 after 24 people had perished. Over the course of the year, the panic slowly subsided and the court realized that they shouldn’t rely on spectral evidence, which is testimony in regard to visions and dreams, to convict someone. The court system apologized for what happened and provided financial restitution to the deceased family members in 1711 (History.com). Along with that, they pardoned the people accused of witchcraft and restored their names (History.com). Of course, with something horrific like this, the damage stayed with the community. This tragedy also inspired the play “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller in 1953 (History.com).

Now, what can we learn from this and how can we apply it to today? I would argue that women are still held to high standards today. From the way we look to the way we act. We can’t be fat but also can’t be too skinny. We need to wear makeup but not too much of it. We can’t be too sexual but also cannot be prudes. Working mothers are criticized for using nannies to help raise their children but if they were stay at home mothers, they’d also hear about how they can work and have a family. Although it’s no longer the 1600s, we still need to fight for our rights and our equality. However, we can use terms like “witch” to our advantage and make it liberating and empowering. After all, witches get stuff done.

Sources:

Brooks, Rebecca Beatrice, et al. “History of the Salem Witch Trials.” History of Massachusetts Blog, 28 May 2020, historyofmassachusetts.org/the-salem-witch-trials/.

Hassett-Walker, Connie. “Perspective | What the Salem Witches Can Teach Us about How We Treat Women Today.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 1 Apr. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2018/06/10/what-the-salem-witches-can-teach-us-about-how-we-treat-women-today/

History.com Editors. “Salem Witch Trials.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 4 Nov. 2011, www.history.com/topics/colonial-america/salem-witch-trials.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Care About Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By Kyra Charles

Trigger Warning: Mentions of sexual assault and rape.

Rape culture scares me senseless. It’s why I don’t go to parties or drink when I do go to them. It’s why I don’t allow my dates to drive me anywhere. It’s why my grandmother bought me a rape whistle for Christmas, and my mother bought me a taser for my birthday. It’s why when I walk around campus at night, a campus that doesn’t allow pepper spray, I hold my key in my fist, ready to jab it in somebody’s eye. It’s why when I met a group of Ukrainian men while abroad, who harassed me and didn’t listen to my definitive NO, I felt extremely angry.

And I’m still angry. Despite everything #MeToo has done, there’s still an unfulfilled need for accountability from the abusers and justice for the abused. Politicians accused of assault and rape are still in public office. Celebrities like James Franco, who claim to support the victims, have committed assault themselves. Within my own circle, somebody I know who works at competitive dance competitions was shamed by an elderly couple for letting a child wear a costume that showed her stomach. “This is why Me Too happened!” they declared, as if what a child chooses to wear defines the actions of somebody who would try to assault her. It doesn’t.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is relevant, and will remain relevant for every assault victim who feels powerless. Its existence defines the take back of our bodies and our lives. By talking about it we share what consent looks like, why abuse is not okay, and how important it is to believe survivors. So much remains to be done, and we cannot forget that. Decades of hard work and bravery have brought us to a point where we can talk about these issues, and there’s no excuse to back down from it now.

The Women’s Center will be hosting Meet Us On The Street through social media this week. Share our posts and create your own with the hashtag #StopStreetHarassment

We will also be hosting Denim Day online on April 29. Post pictures wearing denim with the hashtag #UMKCDenimDay20 and check our social media to see how you can support the Denim Day movement.

For more information on SAAM, go to: https://www.nsvrc.org/saam

 

 

Meet Us On The Street- What Is It?

By Haley Dean

If you have been attending UMKC for at least a year, I’m sure you have seen the chalking on the sidewalks that happens in April. Did you know that’s actually an international event? Meet Us On The Street is an international program for anti-street harassment. Participants everywhere spread the message about gender-based street harassment and why it needs to stop.

What is gender-based street harassment?
According to stopstreetharassment.org, gender-based street harassment defined is as follows:

“Gender-based street harassment is unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation.”

If you’ve ever been catcalled, whistled at, groped, or stalked, you have experienced gender-based street harassment. Gender-based street harassment can make the streets feel unsafe for everybody who walks on them.

Why is the program in April?

Meet Us On The Street is held every year for a week in April, because April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. It is the perfect time to bring awareness to the issue.

How can YOU participate in Meet Us On The Street and help spread the word?

The Women’s Center participates in Meet Us On The Street every year. This year we will be holding it as an online campaign for the entire week of the 20th. Take a look at our social media during that week to see what we are doing to spread the word. We will be chalking and writing messages and posting our creations on our social media with the hashtag #StopStreetHarassment. You can join us in spreading the word, too! Make your own creations and post them with the hashtag, or share our posts on social media. The Meet Us On The Street official website has a list of ideas for messages if you need help creating one.

Harvey Weinstein: A Man Who Went From Greatness to Rapist

By Maggie Pool

Trigger warning: mentions of sexual assault and rape.

Harvey Weinstein is a famous former Hollywood film producer and a convicted sex offender. How did he end up with those two descriptions in the first line of his Wikipedia page?

Harvey and his brother grew up with a passion for films. They didn’t start off in the film business, though. They began by producing rock concerts along with their friend Corky Burger as Harvey & Corky Productions through the 1970s. They brought in top-notch acts like Frank Sinatra, Jackson Browne, and The Rolling Stones. Using the money made from their days as Harvey & Corky Productions, the Weinstein brothers purchased their own independent film distribution company and called it Miramax, a mashup of their parents’ names, Miriam and Max Weinstein.

Now, Miramax is a renowned company for producing many of America’s prized independent films, like  Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989), The Crying Game (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994), Heavenly Creatures (1994), Flirting with Disaster (1996), and Shakespeare in Love (1998). Weinstein won many awards for these films, including an Academy Award for producing Shakespeare in Love. He also went on to succeed in producing arthouse cinema and more independent film. Miramax had so much success that in 1993 Disney offered to purchase the company from Weinstein for $80 million dollars. So where did it all go wrong?

In 2017, a new movement set the nation on fire. The #MeToo Movement united women in telling their stories of sexual harassment. Over a dozen women accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and rape. Once these accusations took hold of the media, Weinstein was fired from his production company, expelled from the Academy, suspended from the British Academy, and denounced by several political figures who previously supported him.

Weinstein was formally charged by New York police with “rape, criminal sex act, sex abuse and sexual misconduct for incidents involving two separate women” on May 25, 2018. A jury convicted Weinstein on February 24, 2020 of criminal sexual assault in the first degree and one count of rape in the third degree. Weinstein faces between 5 to 29 years of prison.

Mimi Haleyi, who testified at the weeks-long trial that Weinstein forced oral sex on her in 2006, was in a coffee shop when she heard the verdict. She said to Good Morning America, “I just sat down, and I started crying, and I had to go out into the street because I didn’t want to be crying in a coffee shop,” she said. “It was just a huge sense of relief – relief that the jury got it; that they believed me and that I was heard.”

Here are some statements from other victims of Harvey Weinstein, and supporters of those victims, after his conviction:

“He will forever be guilty.”

-Tarana Burke

“This is what he has created for himself, prison, lack of remorse, lack of accountability.”

-Ashley Judd

“Every day that I live and enjoy my life is a victory over Harvey.”

-Rowena Chiu

“I did it for all of us. I did it for the women who couldn’t testify. I couldn’t not do it.”

-Dawn Dunning

“It’s time for men who witness bad behavior to have the courage to step up and bear witness to it.”

-Irwin Reiter

“Hopefully this gives more women the strength to come forward.”

-Lucia Evans

Domestic Violence Awarness Month

By Skye VanLanduyt

Domestic Violence Awareness Month originated from “Day Of Unity” created by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) in 1981. The hope was to engage people in conversation on ways to end violence against women and children. Day of Unity expanded to a weeklong event of activities held by local, state, and national organizations. In 1987, the first National Domestic Violence toll-free hotline was established in the U.S and in 1989, Congress passed Public Law 101-112 making the month of October officially known as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The United States Department of Justice defines domestic violence as “a serious violent crime that includes both physical and emotional abuse. Many victims suffer in silence, afraid to seek help, or not knowing where to turn.” To seek help or learn more about what the Department of Justice is doing to ensure protections are being put into place.

This month, the UMKC Women’s Center and the UMKC Violence Prevention & Response Program is hosting several events on campus to promote domestic violence awareness. On Wednesday, the UMKC Women’s Center hosted a socially engaged art project, I Can We Can, Day Of Action. Students created shrink art to help expand efforts to end violence around UMKC’s campus. The event was co-sponsored by A Window Between Worlds and UMKC Violence Prevention & Response Program. If you missed out on Wednesday’s empowering event or want to get more involved in the fight against domestic violence, the UMKC Violence Prevention & Response Program is hosting several events this month…

  • Domestic Violence Awareness Month Information Table. Wed, Oct. 9, 11:00a.m.-1:00p.m., Atterbury Student Success Center, 5000 Holmes St. Stop by our table to learn about the history of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Raise your hand to take a stand by tracing your hand to show your support for ending violence against women. The hands will be used on display boards to exhibit that UMKC stands with victims of domestic violence. Co-sponsored by UMKC Counseling Services.
  • I’m Anti-Violence Campaign. Mon, Oct. 14, 11:00 a.m.-1:00p.m., Miller Nichols Learning Center Lobby, 800 E. 51st St. This program is a photo campaign to show support for ending violence against LGBTQ+ individuals and coincides with LGBT History Month. Individuals on campus will be asked to take a stand against violence. This is displayed by taking a picture of the individual with a white board that states, “I’m Anti Violence and pro…” Each individual writes what they are pro. Photos will then be used on social media sites and on display boards to demonstrate that UMKC is anti-violence. Co-sponsored by LGBTQIA Programs and Services.
  • Empty Chair Campaign during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Mon, Oct. 14 – Fri, Nov. 1, Miller Nichols Library, 800 E. 51st St.; Atterbury Student Success Center, 5000 Holmes St.; Oak Residence Hall, 5051 Oak St.; Administrative Center, 5115 Oak St.; Student Union, 5100 Cherry St. Each day, members of our community miss class or work because they are facing domestic violence. Check out the displays in the above locations to see how violence affects our campus community.
  • Red Flag Day. Tues, Oct. 22, 11:00 a.m.-5:00p.m., Information table from 11:00am-1:00p.m., The Quad, 52nd and Rockhill Rd. Stop by our table and learn what red flags in abusive relationships look like. Then, create a red flag to stick in the grass on the quad so others also learn to recognize red flags in abusive relationships.
  • White Ribbon Day during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Wed, Oct. 30, 11:00 a.m.-1:00p.m., Royall Hall – First Floor Lobby, 800 E. 52nd St. Stop by our table to sign a large white ribbon to show solidarity with victims of violence against women and to show public support for ending violence against women.Then spread the word on social media by using #umkcwhiteribbon. Co-sponsored by UMKC Counseling Services.

“The University of Missouri – Kansas City is committed to affording equal employment and educational opportunities to all members of our campus community and to creating an environment free from discrimination, including sex discrimination in all its forms: Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, Stalking on the Basis of Sex, Domestic/Intimate Partner Violence, and Sexual Exploitation.”

To find help for you or a loved one, please visit:

National Domestic Violence Hotline
UMKC Counseling
UMC Counseling Phone Number: 816) 235-1635
UMKC Campus Police: (816) 235-5501
UMKC  Violence Prevention & Response
UMKC Title IX

 

Walk A Mile®Through Our Graduate Assistant’s Lens

By Indra Mursid

The first time I heard about Walk a Mile in Her Shoes© I was a senior student representative during my undergraduate studies. Student Senate was co-sponsoring the march with our own sexual assault and Title IX program so we weren’t the ones who were making the executive decisions on how to advertise or how to incorporate community outreach into the march. When I first found out about the Women’s Center involvement in hosting UMKC’s annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event – I was thrilled to be one of a handful of people making executive decisions on how to incorporate community resources within the march. Before Walk a Mile©, I assisted in curating the roaster of community organizations for the Resource Fair. Some organizations there were from previous Resource Fairs like MOSCA, League of Women Voters, and the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and some were new-and-upcoming organizations that I knew about in the Kansas City area through social media like Barrier Babes. To communicate with organizations about Walk a Mile ©, its cause, and how these organizations could help empower others was incredibly powerful to me because we were exposing survivors and advocates to communal resources they might not have even thought to look into. During the march, I got to witness my efforts through another lens – literally.

During the march, I was also in charge of taking photographs from various vantage points in many stages of the event from the Resource Fair tabling to men crossing the finish line. It was amazing to see students, faculty, Greek Letter societies, and UMKC sports teams unabashedly put on high heels and march in awareness of rape, sexual assault, and gender based violence. I could tell through my interactions with many men how passionate they were about the subject, especially in the speeches Dr. Martin, Justice Horn, and Humberto Gonzalez gave. They spoke about how they advocate for the women closest to them and women who cannot speak out due to the fear of retaliation or lack of support to do so. I want to emphasize how much we need men to use their voice as a vehicle for change, especially in women’s issues. Overall, the experience of planning, executing, and sprinting around the route with the participants taking photos was incredible. I hope to be involved in some way during my time at UMKC and beyond.