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

Forced Sterilizations and Targeting Marginalized Communities

By Emma Gilham

Earlier this fall, whistleblower allegations at an ICE detention center in Georgia of forced sterilizations swept news headlines. Dawn Wooten, the whistleblower and former nurse at the center, claimed consent was not obtained for these procedures, the patients were not informed of what was happening, and those that objected were placed in solitary confinement. An investigation by the Department of Homeland Security has been opened into the misconduct at Irwin County Detention Center after significant urging from federal elected officials, as ethical questions such as obtaining informed consent and negligence have been raised. While the investigation is a start, it cannot be ignored that consistent complaints of misconduct have emerged from these detention centers and that the government has an unsavory history with forced sterilizations. The first eugenics law was passed in 1907 in Indiana, inspiring 31 other states to follow. In the CNN article, “In a horrifying history of forced sterilizations, some fear the US is beginning a new chapter”, “The laws, which led to officials ordering sterilizations of people they deemed ‘feeble-minded’ or ‘mentally defective,’” later became models for Nazi Germany.” Throughout the 20th century other government-backed forced sterilizations occurred, which unsurprisingly targeted BIPOC womxn. Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer had a non-consensual hysterectomy while she was having surgery for another health issue in 1961. She brought attention to the issue in her activism. Even into the 2000s, sterilizations were illegally funded by the state of California on incarcerated womxn. Time and time again vulnerable groups have been sterilized at increasing rates. To clarify, hysterectomies and tubal ligation are irreversible and valid forms of birth control. However, the aforementioned instances of forced sterilization often included preying on, coercing, or misinforming womxn into having these procedures. In the end, the investigation into the Irwin County Detention Center is just the tip of the iceberg.

“Stethoscope” by surroundsound5000 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The People’s City – Reclaiming Kansas City

Protestors at City Hall on October 4, 2020. // Photo by Jim Nimmo

By Emma Gilham

People mill around the statue of Lincoln. A burst of laughter here and there cuts through the murmur of conversation. Megaphones await their champions on concrete benches. Cars slow to read the signs and take in the city of tents that sits on green government grass. The People’s City has planted itself on the front lawn of City Hall in Jackson County Kansas City, until its demands are met.

After the assault on a Black womxn named Deja, outrage spread through the already rightfully angry Black Lives Matter movement of Kansas City. Video shows the young mother being forced to the ground by a police officer onto her pregnant midsection. The officer, Officer Newton, then places his knee on Deja’s back as he handcuffs her. It can only be described as gruesome to watch. After this incident, local organizers decided to stage an occupation protest at City Hall until their demands are met by the local government. Starting on October 2, the protest has seen some opposition to its continuance and demands. The list of demands are as follows:

  • Remove Police Chief Rick Smith from his position and Officer Newton from the force
  • Remove all officers who have killed Black victims from the force.
  • Divest 50% from the KCPD budget
  • Reinvest the KCPD budget into resources that support the black community including education, healthcare, and housing.

Mayor Lucas has said the removal of Rick Smith from his position would be “superficial”. Although Lucas is very well versed in the reforms he has passed, considered radical, he fails to capture what radical change actually is. According to Merriam-Webster, radical is defined as “a root part”. The removal of an incompetent leader is the critical first step in a long road to bringing racial equity to Kansas City. The Student Government Association panel discussion on “The future of policing in Kansas City: A Conversation with Mayor Quinton Lucas” brought up the very compelling point in that the culture of KCPD must shift from a fraternity-like environment, of protecting one’s own, before any real and lasting change can happen. This starts at the top with leadership. This position change would be a promise to doing better for the Black community.

While occupying the People’s City, I have been approached and asked “Why are you here?” or “What is your goal of being here?”- it is a fair question for anyone at the People’s City as an activist to answer. The goal is to uplift, cherish, and protect Black womxn, men, and children in Kansas City. It is to not allow ourselves to accept half measures and meaningless reforms. It is sticking around for the long haul, knowing the end game, and pursuing that until you have achieved it or you are incapable. It’s knowing that there cannot be another Deja, Cameron Lamb, Ryan Stokes, Breonna Hill, Terence Bridges, Donnie Sanders, or MR until we are angry again. KCPD’s reign of terror must be ended with urgency, and we will stay dedicated, fierce, and diligent to the movement until it does.

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.

Reflecting Back During My Time at The Women’s Center

By Sabrina Zavala

The end of my final semester at UMKC has arrived, and although it was not exactly how I planned it to be, it was definitely one to remember. Being the Gender Violence Prevention Intern at the Women’s Center has taught me a lot and I have learned so much from all the amazing women that I’ve worked with in the past five months. They’ve helped me gain more confidence in myself and in my work, and made being there more fun than I could’ve imagined. Although I couldn’t be there physically, I was still able to see everyone through zoom and work from home, and I feel like that need for adaptability will help me in future jobs.

Working from home was definitely different, but I was happy to know that we could continue planning and hosting big events for the university. In the past, I had volunteered and attended a few events that the Women’s Center hosted on campus and this semester I was able to see it from a different point of view. I organized events such as The Vagina Monologues and Denim Day. Both of those events were difficult to prepare for and stressful of course, but in the end, the results were worth all the hard work that was put into them.

Everything I have learned from the Women’s Center has given me experience and skills to use in the real world. Although I won’t walk across the stage on May 17th, I still thank the UMKC Women’s Center for giving me the privilege to intern for them. They’ve given me the best senior experiences on campus, and helped me go above and beyond as the Gender Violence Prevention Intern.

Eve Ensler: The Revolutionist Behind V-Day

By Maggie Pool

Trigger warning: mentions of sexual abuse.

In 2006, New York Times writer Charles Isherwood proclaimed The Vagina Monologues to be “probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade.” What are these monologues you ask? The Vagina Monologues is a play written by Eve Ensler based off a interviews she did with two hundred women about their experiences involving sex, relationships, and the violence they may have experienced during those interactions.

Eve Ensler was born in New York City in 1953 to a Jewish father and Christian mother and is the middle child out of two brothers. From the time she was five to ten, Ensler’s father physically and sexually abused her. Ensler reflected back on how she felt in this time of her life: “very sad, very angry, very defiant. I was the girl with the dirty hair. I didn’t fit anywhere.” Ensler attended Mitterbury College in Vermont, and her experiences forged her loyalty to feminist ideals, but her encounters with gender-based violence continued. She graduated and unfortunately was abused in several different relationships, which led to dependency on drugs and alcohol. Ensler eventually went to rehab and no doubt was inspired by all these previous events to create her most known work, The Vagina Monologues.

When the play premiered in 1996, many women would linger after each showing to unload the weight of their own experiences that had been choking them into silence for years. As if struck by lightning, Ensler realized what she created wasn’t just a play of entertainment, but a movement that masses of mistreated women felt deep in their hearts, something that rang a bell and called for action.

The V-Day movement was born on Valentine’s Day in 1998, when Ensler held the first V-Day event: a benefit concert that raised $250,000 in one evening. And that was just the beginning. The official V-Day website puts it well: “What began as one event in New York City in 1998 today includes over 5,800 V-Day events annually.” What is the overall mission of the V-Day movement that people are so inspired to be a part of? It’s a simple one. It’s a demand that violence against women must end. V-Day tackles gender-based violence by having groups around the world put on a performance of The Vagina Monologues (and other V-Day related works). These performances work to raise awareness, and all the proceeds collected during the event are donated to projects or programs that also have the goal of ending violence against women and girls.

The Vagina Monologues has won over twenty different awards and recognitions, but, of course, it is more than just an award-winning play. It is a movement that will undeniably continue to spread like wildfire as the world becomes more aware of gender-based violence. Women and girls, every year, walk an Earth in which they are taught to fear their gender. The lessons of V-Day inspire others to free these innocent women from the abuse of gender-based violence. Hopefully, one day, we can all exist in harmony and respect everyone, no matter who they are, what they look like, or how they identify.

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

 

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.

Join Us for Walk A Mile In Her Shoes®

By Skye VanLanduyt

In 2001, Psychologist Frank Baird founded Walk A Mile In Her Shoes® to encourage men to think about how gender violence affects women. At the event, men are asked to walk a mile in women’s shoes to bring awareness and understanding to women’s experiences, improve gender relationships, and decrease the potential for violence. To learn more about Walk A Mile In Her Shoes®, and its mission go to https://www.walkamileinhershoes.org/index.html#.XXqtUy2ZPfs

The Women Center’s website states since 2007, over 1,000 people at UMKC have participated in the event. This participation has increased awareness of rape, sexual assault, gender violence, and funds for the UMKC Women’s Center and UMKC Violence Prevention and Response Program.

UMKC Librarian, Scott Curtis is a previous participant and longtime supporter of Walk A Mile In Her Shoes®. He says, “walking in high heels allowed him time to think about the discomfort women feel due to social conventions based on sexism.” As the school year starts, Curtis believes participating in Walk A Mile In Her Shoes® is important because it will give students and staff the opportunity to “come together and, through a little fun and a lot of reflection, work toward making UMKC a better place.”

This year, UMKC’s new athletic director, Dr. Brandon Martin will be providing the opening remarks. As director, he says “I believe it’s my job to be a leader for the athletic department but I also believe in being a leader for a larger part of the campus.” His involvement hits close to home, “as a parent of two daughters” he says, “it is important to take a stronger stance against sexual violence.” Martin hopes Walk A Mile In Her Shoes® will continue gaining momentum for UMKC’s fight to decrease gender violence.

Our Student Body President, Justice Horn will be co-leading the event with Martin as the MC. Horn says he feels “it is our duty, in positions of influence, and positions of power to be allies toward the fight for equality for women.” Much like Martin, Horn says Walk A Mile In Her Shoes® is personal. “My mom makes the money in our family and is usually the only woman in the room.” Horn hopes those in attendance this year “understand that everyone needs to be in this fight towards equality.”

We hope you will join us this Thursday! All are welcome.

When: Thursday, September 19, 2019 at 5:30. A kick-off will take place before the march, which will start at 6pm.

Where: UMKC University Playhouse, 51st & Holmes St., Kansas City, MO 64110

Admission: Free!

A limited supply of shoes will be provided by the UMKC Women’s Center, so we encourage you to bring your own shoes!

Participants are asked to wear heels to the walk but are not required to.

If there is inclement weather, the event will be held at Jazzman’s, Student Union, 5100 Cherry St., Kansas City, MO 64110.