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

Talking About Consent

By Morgan Clark

I recently watched the Red Table Talk on consent, particularly consent and the “grey area”. It was interesting to watch, and I believe watching it can spark up conversations that need to be had in our society. They start the discussion by talking about consent and how up to 80% of the women they have survey said they have had unwanted sex. This leads the hosts to explain what they call the “grey area”. Before this video, I did not truly understand how there could be a grey area. They explain the “grey area” is more of a misunderstanding between the two parties when it comes to sexual activity. They used an example of a woman asking a man to come up to a hotel room. In the woman’s mind, she’s asking because she wants to hang out more, but to the man, he thinks she’s asking him to accompany her to lead up to sex. This example I do understand, because each person can have different intentions. I think this is where the grey area is, in the difference between what each person wants from the other.

But I also feel like that is where the grey area should stop. If one party advances sexually and the other party doesn’t want to have sex, it will show. Even if that party does not vocalize it, physically they will show signs of not wanting it. This was discussed amongst the women during the Red Table Talk. They invited Rumer Willis, who was open enough to talk about her own experiences, to join the conversation. She was not vocal about not wanting sex in her experience, but said that she showed it physically. Meaning she was not reciprocating the exact motion the guy was doing. For me, in this example and many others, I feel like many men take advantage of women. Knowing that she won’t speak up about not wanting sex and ignoring obvious signs is simply taking advantage, not “the grey area.” That’s what I think they should have made clearer in the video.

I also felt like there was some victim-blaming in the beginning. Although there is a preventive measure to make one safer from sexual assault it is never the victim’s fault, even if they do not use the preventative measure. They also should have made this clearer in the discussion, even if they were not victim-blaming. One thing I did like about the conversation is the diversity of the speakers. Giving us, the audience, different perspectives on the “grey area”. They even brought in a former football player, DeAndre Levy, who is now an activist who focuses on the issue of consent and the calling out of men. He spoke about how he did not hear about consent until he was an adult. (Which is alarming!) He also talks about how he was taught to believe that a women’s body belongs to him, especially when they already have had sex with him. He was asked by the other speakers how to educate men about consent. He states “holding those in your life accountable” is the best way to teach other men about the importance of consent. Rumer brought up teaching children at an early age about consent using non-sexual content. For example, not forcing children to hug adults when they don’t want to.

The last thing I did enjoy about this conversation was the “I want, I will, and won’t“ activity brought by Michelle Hope, a reproductive justice activist. In that activity is a list of what one would do sexually, for each item you should check yes or no. This is supposed to help a person know exactly what they want sexually. I think this is a cool idea and see no cons to the list. Overall, I think this video is worth a watch. The conversation surrounding sex is so taboo that people are not comfortable speaking about any aspect of it, including consent. If we were able to get comfortable about speaking about sex I believe the idea of “grey areas” would disappear.

 

Walked a Mile Alone, to Stand Up Together!

By April Brown

We kicked off Domestic Violence Awareness Month on Tuesday October 6th, 2020 which marked the annual UMKC sector of Walk A Mile in Her Shoes, the international men’s march to stop rape, sexual assault, and gender violence. In spite of its binary name, UMKC encourages any and everyone to participate in this march to end gender based violence against all people. It’s an inclusive and fun way to shed light on some very dark issues that plague our society, especially on college campuses.

This day is usually a rowdy one, characterized by large groups of friends and allies, high heeled shoes, and picket signs that call for peace and love above all else. Together with most of the other student organizations, the women’s center would lead a march around campus that cultivated a crowd so large it would demand everyone’s attention. The acceptance, tolerance, and love would be tangible as the group walked by.

This year the event had to be done a little differently. With COVID an ever present risk, the Women’s Center wasn’t even sure we would be able to put on this event. I mean, it is an event about togetherness, and about standing in solidarity. We were pressed to find a way to make the same impact with this event, while remaining isolated, distanced, and safe. Being unable to gather on campus made it especially difficult for Emma, Abbie, and Morgan, the staff members responsible for the Walk A Mile event this year, as they couldn’t even put their heads (physically) together to try and figure out a new way to pull this off.

Despite the challenges though, our staff members, along with the help of their co-sponsors, were able to come up with a program that adhered to the campuses restrictions and rules, but also provided an opportunity for the student organizations and other students and faculty to physically stand with victims of sexual and gender based violence. Though we couldn’t lead a mass group of people around campus, Emma and Abbie did find a way to make sure the walk could still happen on campus. With chalk outlines on the sidewalk, and printed out maps, participants could stop at the Women’s Center table in the quad, grab a T-shirt, a map, and shoes (if they wanted them), and take the mile long walk on their own. With requirements to stay six feet apart, and to keep your mask on the entire time, students and faculty were able to bring a friend or two and take the self guided march for equality. They were encouraged to snap selfies and pictures of themselves and the walk to post to social media to be sure the importance of their walk reached as many people as possible.

I was not working the event, so I decided to pay Abbie, Morgan, and Emma a visit while they sat at their table waiting for people to come by and start their own walk. I wanted to see how this walk would affect me, and others around me, now that it seemed to be such a quiet and singular thing. Would it have the same impact? Could it possibly raise any awareness this way?

After arming myself with a T-shirt and a map I started my trek through the course all on my own. I was surprised to find that I actually felt very powerfully about what I was doing, even being all by myself. The chalk arrows on the ground eventually gave way to statistics about rape, sexual assault, and gender violence. They were so moving I found myself stopping and just taking in the information. I was learning so much! I ambled through the first half of the walk, stopping often and looking around. People were looking at me too, my shirt like a flashlight in the dark. They were curious. I saw that people on their way to class, or lunch, or wherever they were headed would not only look at me but look at the ground too. They would stop and read the messages written there. They were learning as much as I was.

Then the statistics gave way to messages of support, encouragement, and empowerment towards the end of the walk. There were chalked instructions on how to handle someone who discloses having been hurt or assaulted, how to handle your own emotions if it happens to you, and simple messages like “Believe Survivors.” Needless to say this was a very powerful way to end the course. The mile came to an abrupt halt at the outside entrance to the Women’s Center. I stood there by myself for a minute, reflecting on what I had done, and knowing that no one really saw me do it, and there was no big production, but that I had learned and changed along the way anyway. I truly felt like an ally to and advocate for victims.

Later on in the day I did the walk again with a few friends, but we didn’t talk much throughout it. They, like me, were busy watching the ground, and learning about the realities of so many people in our community. I found that the quiet, solitary, introspective nature of the event was as powerful, if not more powerful, than the robust, celebratory atmosphere of previous years. For the first time since school started up again I felt connected to my campus, and to the other students here, especially as social media began to fill up with pictures of other people who had walked the same path I had that day. We had done it all on our own, but we had stood together with the victims of these heinous acts. We weren’t isolated in this act.

In all I think the event, though it was small, different, and difficult to pull off, was pretty successful. It accomplished exactly what it set out to do and that was to bring people together in the name of reform, justice, love, and peace, which is one hell of an accomplishment, especially now.

 

Congress Investigation into Fort Hood

Content Warning: Sexual Assault

By Emma Gilham

The summer of 2020 has been one of reckoning. Calls for accountability can be heard from almost all walks of life. We want answers and responsibility. Congress announced it will be opening an investigation into Fort Hood, Texas to find out if the 28 deaths at the station this year “may be symptomatic of underlying leadership, discipline, and morale deficiencies throughout the chain-of-command.” As one may recall, Fort Hood was the location of the sexual assault, disappearance, and murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen. While this action is long overdue, I can’t help but wonder what they will discover (if anything) that we don’t already know about sexual assault in the military. From the fiscal year of 2016 to the fiscal year of 2018, the rate of sexual assault and rape experienced by all Service members jumped by almost 40%, but for women the rate increased by over 50% to the highest level since 2006. The United States Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (DOD SAPRO) already claims to be providing a holistic approach to combatting this issue, while we see no significant changes. In the DOD SAPRO fiscal year report of 2019, active duty focus group members “… believe senior leaders are actively driving change in the field.” The report also claims that the climate is changing due to younger recruits with increased awareness of inappropriate behaviors: “Junior leaders are on the frontline of the fight to eradicate these problems in our units and must serve as role models in this effort.” While I agree with the need to educate young leaders in the force, problems seem to be stemming from them as well as more entrenched military personnel. The data collected by the DOD SAPRO from FY2019 and FY2018 both indicate that many sexual assaulters are at the victim’s grade or higher. “Of women who reported a penetrative sexual assault, 59% were assaulted by someone with a higher rank than them, and 24% were assaulted by someone in their chain of command” (FY2018). After reading these reports, I have several questions: What is being done to educate and hold higher ranking officers accountable? How can this specific investigation into Fort Hood improve the issues that have perpetrated and presented themselves in the military for decades? Overall, I will be pleased if this investigation helps end the apparent climate of violence in the military, yet I cannot say I am too hopeful. However, I’m tired of the lack of transparency, and I think it’s safe to say that we are all ready for answers.

Raise Awareness for Sexual Assault

Join us on Wednesday, April 29th for our social media campaign to support the Denim Day movement!

Denim Day began in 1992, after an 18-year-old woman was raped in Italy during her driving lesson. Her driving instructor took her to an isolated road, pulled her out of the car, removed her jeans and had raped her. The case went to court and the conviction was overturned, releasing the perpetrator. The Italian Supreme Court, who then released a statement that argued that because the victim’s jeans were very tight, she would have had to help him remove them, therefore, making it consensual sex and not rape. Furious by the decision, women in the Parliament protested by wearing jeans on the steps of the Supreme Court. This protest inspired many others and resulted in the first ever Denim Day movement in April of 1999. Now an annual event, we hope to use our denim as a meaning of protest against the myths surrounding sexual assault!

The Women’s Center will be having Denim Day as a social media campaign that raises awareness of sexual assault and the dangers of victim-blaming. During the social media campaign, we will be using the hashtag #UMKCDenimDay20. We encourage those at home to wear denim on Wednesday, April 29th and decorate an image of denim to support the Denim Day Movement. For more information about Denim Day visit: https://www.denimdayinfo.org/why-denim.

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

 

 

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

The Clothesline Project

By Maggie Pool

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1 out of 7 men or 1 out of 4 women have experienced “severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime” (National Domestic Violence Hotline). Because these types of heartbreaking events are unfortunately common among couples, the Women’s Center and Violence Prevention and Response office has made “The Clothesline Project” a time to share feelings or thoughts on how violence against men and women has affected loved ones or the world around them.

Starting Monday, November 4th, the UMKC Women’s Center will be co-sponsoring with the office of Violence Prevention and Response on a project called “The Clothesline Project”, a visual display that bears witness to domestic and sexual violence. UMKC students can stop by information tables, located at the Rockhill Parking Garage Walkway, 52nd & Rockhill Road, to add to the line by decorating a shirt.

If you missed Tuesday’s informational table, no worries! Violence Prevention and Response will be tabling again on Thursday, November 14th at 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Royall Hall Lobby. Both offices have committed themselves to creating safe spaces for everyone to feel comfortable sharing thoughts or experiences on subjects close to their hearts. Come by one of the tables and start a discussion, make a shirt to add to the line, or learn more about the Women’s Center and Violence Prevention and Response office!

Co-Sponsored by: UMKC Women’s Center

 

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.