National Teen Dating Violence Prevention Awareness Month

Image from Flickr.com

By Maritza Gordillo

February is the 2nd annual National Teen Dating Violence Prevention Awareness Month (Teen DV Month). This month is dedicated to teens that suffer physical, emotional, or sexual abuse from their partners. During the month of January, we focused on National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM), but stalking is just one aspect of hundreds of unhealthy teen relationships in the United States. Teen dating violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner. According to the Teen DV Month’s resource center, here are the 10 most common behaviors of an abusive partner:

  • Checking your cell phone or email without permission
  • Constantly putting you down
  • Acting extremely jealous or insecure
  • Having an explosive temper
  • Demanding to know where you are and who you are with all the time
  • Isolating you from family or friends
  • Undergoing large mood swings
  • Physically hurting you in any way
  • Being possessive
  • Telling you what to do

This list is just the beginning of a pattern of controlling behaviors that can become more tragic if left unchecked. Because fear is a major barrier for teens leaving an abusive relationship, it is important to raise dating abuse awareness. We can do this by learning to recognize the signs of abuse and taking positive action if abuse is suspected. Teens need to know that they are not alone in their struggle and that they can reach out to their friends, co-workers, or family members. If you suspect a teen is in an abusive relationship or would like more information please visit the official Teen DV Month website.

Is It Because They Are Athletes?

By Emily Mathis

I like sports as much as the next person. Well, okay so I most likely won’t watch football on Sunday  unless I’m at my parent’s house, but come the big exciting championship, I am there. And as anyone who knows me can attest as long as it’s hockey, I’m there. However, I have noticed a disturbing trend recently of male athletes who are accused of sexual assault or domestic violence. Not only are they getting away with it, but the media and a lot of sports fans turn the tables around and use victim-blaming as the main defense.

As much as it saddens me to bring this up, since my family is Spartans all the way, the worst case of this “free pass” for athletes lately happened at Michigan State University. According to reports, two male basketball players sexually assaulted a young woman at a party. The article states that even though one of the two players agreed with the victim’s account of what happened, no chargers are being issued.

This is not the first instance of athletes not getting charged or just receiving a “slap on the wrist”. This past year Ben Roethlisberger, the winning quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was accused of rape. After the allegations, which were never prosecuted due to negligent investigating, Roethlisberger received a six game suspension that was taken down to a four game suspension for “good behavior.” In addition to the lack of seriousness afforded to the situation, Nike and others came to his defense.

Why is it that these athletes are able to get away with crimes that should be prosecuted? If it’s not victim-blaming techniques, the police don’t take the allegations seriously and don’t treat the players like other men, or for some reason the county or state’s attorneys decide there is “not enough evidence” to file charges.

In the case of the MSU players, I am really confused why no action is being taken. When one of the players corroborates the victim’s charges, shouldn’t that be a red flag that maybe a crime actually did take place?  And why wasn’t Roethlisberger’s case handled better? Maybe it’s like some of the other examples of sexual assault cases not being handled properly. But maybe it’s more than that.

Perhaps our society does give sports figures a “free pass”. I think that it’s a combination of sexual assault allegations not being handled the way they should and the fact that there is somewhat of a “boys will be boys” mentality when it comes to athletes. It seems that sometimes in our society there is a tendency to overlook bad behavior from star athletes precisely because people want to keep them in the winning column and you can’t do that if they are getting arrested or worse actually serving time in jail.

In addition to many people not wanting athletes to have to deal with the consequences of their actions, there seems to be the continuing problem of victim-blaming. There is the type of victim-blaming that is evident in the MSU allegations: they were at a party, the girl had been drinking, she went upstairs with them, etc, so obviously no crime could have been committed. These are classic victim-blaming mentalities. But what struck me about the Roethlisberger case and other high profile sexual assault cases, like the Kobe Bryant case, is that it seems there is a different type of victim-blaming that occurs and that is this idea that any girl would obviously want to have sex with a famous athlete and therefore these girls must being lying so they can get publicity and/or money. It would seem that it is too hard to imagine that a beloved figure like a quarterback for a Super Bowl winning team would actually rape women. But some people forget rape is not about sex or desire; it’s about power. So just because someone like Roethlisberger or Bryant probably has a lot of opportunity to have sex with a lot of women, it doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of rape.

As with so many aspects of how our society deals with sexual assault, this tendency for overlooking valid information as it pertains to athletes has got to stop. I am by no means saying that all athletes are perpetrating crimes and that none of them receive punishment. I am saying that it seems like if the crime in question is sexual assault, it tends to go unpunished. It seems like the struggle for understanding of what sexual assault and rape is still continues, not only in society, but in our law enforcement communities as well. But most importantly it seems some men need to understand that women need to be respected not violated.

October is Domestic Violence Month, too.

By Emily Mathis

Drive around Kansas City in October and I bet you will see some pink fountains. The city, for the past seven years, has dyed a dozen or so fountains pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. However, I bet not as many people know that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Why is it that if both issues are important to women’s health, one is more visible than the other?

Here at the UMKC Women’s Center and the Violence Prevention and Response Project, we have many events surrounding Domestic Violence Awareness. For instance, we just wrapped up the Clothesline Project, and coming up we have the These Hands Don’t Hurt tables all around campus as well as educational sessions on Violence Prevention and Dating Violence. However, besides our events, I haven’t seen as much around the community promoting awareness about this important issue.

I am definitely not trying to belittle Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  I know how important it is to women’s health. But statistically speaking, so is Domestic Violence Awareness. According to the Domestic Violence Resource Center, “Between 600,000 and 6 million women are victims of domestic violence each year, and between 100,000 and 6 million men.” This is not light issue.

So while we are supporting the pink ribbon campaign, it is also important to make sure that we are spreading the word about domestic violence. It’s happening and we need to recognize it so we can prevent it.

To learn more about Domestic Violence, including how to recognize it go here.

Father and Son Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Together

The following is a guest post submitted by Jim Doyle, Executive Director of Self-Protection. org.

Walking with my 9-year-old son around the University of Missouri – Kansas City campus with over 100 other men gave me a chance to teach my son that not all men/boys respect women, even though they should.  At the half way point, my son complained that his feet hurt.  The teaching moment descended upon us as I explained to him, in a nine year old appropriate way, about violence against women.  He spent the remainder of the walk in silent thought.  Why were we there?  

Walk a Mile in Her shoes is an international men’s march to end rape, sexual assault and gender violence.  The awkward march of men clanking around the sidewalks of the campus in high heeled shoes revealed our attitudes about sexual violence.  But, the march must become more than a symbolic gesture.  We must use the event as a commitment to respect women, to start a long-term conversation about gender violence and finally as a catalyst to take action.     

Let’s use this event as a commitment to walk in her shoes every day.  These are our mothers and sisters, wives and girlfriends, our daughters.  Let’s make a commitment to treat every woman in our lives with respect all the time.  And we should demand that our friends and brothers and sons and fathers do the same.

Let’s start a conversation among men.  Let’s have a conversation about our responsibilities in preventing rape, sexual assault and gender violence.  What can each of us do?  What would we want our society to look like for our mothers, sisters, wives or girlfriends?  What kind of society do we want our daughters to grow up in? And finally, how can we participate in this change?

“Getting engaged in changing things is quite straightforward.  If we have an idea, or want to resolve an injustice, or stop a tragedy, we step forward to serve.  Instead of being overwhelmed and withdrawing, we act.”  (From Perseverance by Margaret Wheatley, 2010).

So Men, let’s reflect on the blistered toes and stiff calf muscles and act to end violence in all of its forms.

Preventing Rape on College Campuses

Image from flickr.com

Here is a staggering statistic: 1 in 4 women will be a victim of a rape or attempted rape before she graduates. And according to another statistic, women ages 16-24 are more vulnerable than any other group to experiencing violence, specifically intimate partner violence.

I know those statistics can be downers but they are sadly the truth. I recently came across an article titled “Back to School, Back to Rape” by Amy Siskind. The article talks about how rape of college women is a huge problem but that it is being underreported and not being dealt with on a large scale. Siskind points to victim-blaming as one of the major reasons why young women aren’t reporting assaults and she gives a widely publicized incident as evidence: “When Chris Brown beat up Rihanna, almost half of teens surveyed thought Rihanna was to blame. They wondered things like: ‘What did Rihanna do to upset the mild mannered Chris Brown?’ Who do we imagine these teens will blame if they themselves become a victim one day?”

In the rest of her article, Siskind talks about how we need to start educating girls early, especially since teen dating violence is more prevelent than ever, and she suggests including dating violence information in the high school curriculum as one possible solution.

I agree with Siskind’s main points. I have always believed in comprehensive sex-ed which includes education about dating violence and sexual assault, and I also agree with the fact that victim-blaming is such a part of our culture that many women feel like the rape is their fault or that no one will believe them; consequently, they don’t report it.

Along with victim blaming and the lack of education, there have been some recent stories about colleges not handling reports of sexual assault well. Recently, a mother of a girl who committed suicide after being raped at a college party is suing the university that her daughter attended. The university failed to take action towards the males who commited the crimes but also failed to reach out and help the girl, one of their own students.

Sadly, stories of young women finding themselves in bad situations on college campuses are too common and even more upsetting is that some colleges don’t have the resourses to help victims. Like Siskind said, there needs to be a change in how we view victims but there also needs to be more programs and schools that are equipped to deal with these situations. Maybe then young women will feel like they can come forward and get the support they need.

Hopefully UMKC women feel like they can come forward because we are lucky enough to have great resources and support. The UMKC Violence Prevention and Response Project focuses on providing victim support services for sexual assault and dating violence survivors on campus. The main mission of the Violence Prevention Response Project is to strengthn campus and community response to gender-based and sexual violence through education, victim support services, advocacy, and training. They work together with the UMKC Police, other campus departments, and community organizations to make sure that instances of violece and assault are handled with the victim’s best interest in mind. 

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault and you are unsure of what to do: Contact Michelle Kroner, Victim Services Adjudication Advisor at 816-235-1652 or kronermm@umkc.edu or the UMKC Police at 816-235-1515 (or 911). For more campus and community resources, click here.

Walk A Mile In Her Shoes


Fast Tube by Casper
According to RAINN.org, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. College women are 4 times more likely to be sexually assaulted.

On September 14th the UMKC Violence Prevention and Response Project along with the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project will put on Walk a Mile in Her Shoes: The International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault, and Gender Violence.

One of the most asked questions that we get here at the Women’s Center is: ‘Is the Women’s Center just for women or can men get involved?’ Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is the best answer to that question. The mission for the event is simply: “Co-creating a United Gender Movement, men will be a part of the solution to ending sexualized violence.” Not only do we encourage men to get involved in all of our events and to come into our center, but we need men for this event to be a success!

The event begins at 5:30 p.m. on the Tuesday, September 14 with check-in. After check-in, there will be some speakers and then a little music to get everyone hyped. At 5:50 p.m., the men will start their mile with the rest of us cheering them on!

After the men complete their walk, it will be time to chow down and hand out awards. Yep, that’s right we are giving away awards and prizes, like a Planet Sub gift card, to those that our judges thought did the best! The whole night will be fun and memorable! It’s a great way to get involved in preventing violence.

If you are interested in participating, men if you want to walk or even if you just want to volunteer to help out, go to www.firstgiving.com/umkcwomenc and register. Also, check out the Women’s Center’s Facebook page and calendar for a listing of all our events gearing up for Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.

 Even if you aren’t walking but want to come out and support the event, go to the website and register to attend and you can either donate money or pay $5 to enjoy the food. All proceeds go to benefit UMKC Violence Prevention and Response Project and Kansas City Anti-Violence Project.

Love the Way You Lie

“Just gonna stand there/And watch me burn/But that’s alright/Because I like/The way it hurts/Just gonna stand there/And hear me cry/But that’s alright/Because I love/The way you lie” – lyrics from “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem and Rihanna

Image from Flickr.com

Is the new video for the song “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem and Rihanna glamorizing domestic violence or realistically portraying what those relationships can be like?

With something like 1000 women being killed from domestic violence each year, one thing is for sure: this is not a light topic. People can get heated pretty easily when you are talking about abusive relationships.  However, the song is already topping the charts and getting a lot of YouTube play and leaving a lot of people, me included, left wondering if the song is sending the wrong message.

Image from picasaweb.google.com

Megan Fox stars in the video alongside Dominic Monaghan (Fox donated her fee to an abuse shelter). The video follows the couple’s tumultuous relationship cycle. One minute they are fighting and she is leaving, while he tries to stop her by being violent, and in the next moment they are engaged in some intense tonsil hockey. The rest of the video is much the same with the couple going through what looks like cycles of abuse: in one frame he is hitting her and throwing her around and in the next he is apologizing with a stuffed bear and everything is good again.

Throughout the video you see Eminem in a peaceful field of grass rapping about how he “didn’t mean it” but would do it again and Rihanna in front of a burning house singing about how she “likes the way it hurts” and “loves the way you lie.”

It’s all a bit confusing. I have read some blogs that say this is obviously Eminem and Rihanna’s way of saying that these relationships are bad and should end sooner. I have seen other articles that think because you have all these pretty people being shot beautifully that it is “glamorizing” domestic violence.

As for her part, Rihanna was quoted on Access Hollywood saying:

“It just was authentic. It was real,” Rihanna continued. “It was believable for us to do a record like that, but it was also something that needed to be done and the way he did it was so clever. He pretty much just broke down the cycle of domestic violence and it’s something that a lot people don’t have a lot of insight on, so this song is a really, really powerful song and it touches a lot of people.”

As for me I would have to agree with Rihanna as well as a writer for BUST Magazine, that the video shows the relationship for what it is. While I still don’t know what to think about Rihanna’s lyrics, I liked how the video illustrated what the cycle of abuse can look like.

As with almost anything that Rihanna or Eminem do, the song and its video are getting lots of attention and maybe that’s good enough. All the attention is certainly opening up conversations about abuse and what domestic violence looks like from the inside and what each person goes through. “Love the Way You Lie” gives an unabashed look at domestic violence, right or wrong, it’s out there and getting people talking.  Let us know what you think after watching the video.

Common Sense for Preventing Sexual Assault

Image from mencanstoprape.org

So much of the advice out there about how to prevent sexual assault is usually directed towards the victims who are mostly women.  Something about that seems backwards. Why is all the responsibility still being put on women to “prevent” getting assaulted? I think that more of those conversations need to be directed at the perpetrators, who are mostly male, on how not to commit a sexual assault, what ‘no’ means,  the definition of ‘consent’, and the knowledge that no woman is ‘asking for it’.

A recent article provides an interesting, slightly humorous, informative, male version of “Ways to Prevent Sexual Assault” that more people need to see:

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work!

1.       Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.

2.       When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!

3.       If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!

4.       NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.

5.       If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!

6.       Remember, people go to laundry to do their laundry, do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.

7.       USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.

8.       Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.

9.       Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake!

10.   Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone “on accident” you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.

                And, ALWAYS REMEMBER: if you didn’t ask permission and then respect the answer the first time, you are committing a crime – no matter how “into it” others appear to be.

Where is Your Line?

Image from whereisyourline.org

As is usual for my job I was scanning feminist blogs and websites for news, information, anything that I can share with people who follow the Women’s Center on Twitter or Facebook or read this blog. On my most recent search I came across a piece about how regular women could learn something from the way sex workers negotiate sex. I found the article interesting and an intriguing way to look at how we view sex and how we talk about it. Mentioned in the article was a documentary title The Line and how its maker, Nancy Schwartzman, visited a “brothel” and discussed her own assault and how the workers define their sexual boundaries with clients.  I wanted to know more about the film. So following the links, I read an article about how The Line really raises questions about what happens when someone is assaulted who is not the “perfect victim” and when the assault is not clear cut.  Then I went to The Line’s website: whereisyourline.org.

Now maybe you have heard about the website and the movement, but if you’re like me and you haven’t, I strongly urge you to go to the website and watch the videos and read the blog. It just might change you. It might open discussions or affect the way you think about sexual assault or your own sexuality. The film follows Nancy Schwartzman’s search for answers about her own sexual assault and follows her along her journey to come to terms with the questions she was left with. She interviews attorneys, educators, prostitutes, and another survivor in the 24 min documentary. Although short, the film definitely addresses some key issues that our culture and many cultures struggle with when it comes to sexual assault, like victim blaming and lack of action because people are so quick to dismiss victims if they weren’t “perfect” before the attack, meaning they weren’t drinking or hadn’t had sex prior to the attack and countless other excuses people use to dismiss sexual assault.

In addition to her powerful film, Schwartzman created a movement in the form of a website where people send in photos and write blogs about their experiences. They send in pictures of stickers that they have written on about where their line is. My favorite says: “Have the respect to ask me and don’t judge me for saying no.”

For so many out there it’s hard to talk about sex, to communicate clearly with partners regarding what they will or will not engage in, or to speak up when they feel like they have been violated.  That’s why films and websites like this one are so important. Changing people’s opinions about sexual assault and victims is not something that will happen overnight and it takes the work of all different people, men and women, to facilitate that change. We need to educate people on rape and sexual assault and what is not ok, as well as empowering women and men to speak up for themselves and to not buy into victim-blaming attitudes about sexuality. Everyone needs to define where their line is and to have the strength to not only communicate that, but to also feel secure in wherever their line is; and we all need to respect ourselves and the people around us.

We Can’t Remain Silent Any Longer

Image from Scienceblogs.com

For the past week now, I have been training with MOCSA to become a volunteer assisting victims of sexual violence.  MOCSA, Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, is an organization which serves individuals who suffered from any form of sexual violence.  Their mission is to lessen the ill effects of sexual assault and abuse through prevention, education, treatment, intervention, and advocacy.  While in training, I learned many ways to support women and men, but more particularly women who have been raped.  My role as a victim advocate ultimately is to be there for the victim through their difficult experience, and to address an issue that many victims resort to which is self-blaming.  As a victim advocate and a survivor of sexual assault, I strongly believe no fault should be on the victim for being sexually violated. 

My group had the opportunity to listen to three sexual assault survivors who had similar, yet unique stories.  We even had one survivor tell her story for the first time.  Each story was very heartfelt, and gave me more reason to help bring more awareness to this issue.

One woman survivor mentioned that her immediate family knew what was happening to her by her stepfather, but remained silent suggesting that “this situation should not be discussed and that we should continue with life—like nothing ever happened”.  She also voiced that she told her pastor, and her friend’s mother, but still nothing was ever done to her stepfather.  In fact, she informed the group that he is still alive, and sadly, is still married to her mother.  This particular woman survivor was sexually victimized beginning at the age of five until 15 because she stated that at that age, she stopped it and couldn’t take it any longer.  She was 47 years old when she spoke up about her situation because of a MOCSA luncheon she had attended just to “fill the table”.  Her victimization occurred well over 35 years ago, but if you just think about it, women and men are going through what she experienced a long time ago right now. 

In case many don’t know, most victims who are sexually assaulted know or have encountered their perpetrators.  According to some statistics, approximately 90% of victims know the person who sexually assaulted them.  Of the survivors on the panel, two were sexually assaulted by their stepfathers, and the other survivor was assaulted by a stranger.  Stranger assaults do occur but are not as common as assaults by perpetrators the victim knows.

This is what struck a nerve and made me realize too many victims’ stories are not getting told. Silence is bestowed upon the victim to not even mention they were sexually violated.  According to a news article, one of four female college students are sexually assaulted at some point, and one of seven women has been the victim of a serious or physical assault.  Although sexual assaults are very prevalent, sadly only one in ten women reported their stories to the police.  Many women in the news article indicated they did not report because of feelings of embarrassment or self-blaming.  Other reasons were they did not want to get their perpetrators in trouble, or that they were afraid that no one would believe what they had to say. 

 Another article on male survivors indicated that roughly 10-20 percent of all men will be sexually violated, but the odds of men reporting their sexual violence is slim to none.  Again, this underreporting is the result of feeling guilty, fear of being ignored, laughed at, appearing to be weak, or fear of others questioning their sexuality.

There needs to be more awareness regarding sexual assault in our society.  First, people need to stop remaining silent when they discover someone they know, whether it is a daughter, son, cousin or any other close individual, has been sexually assaulted.  Rather than a victim feeling helpless and believing something is wrong with them, they should have the support of others to reassure the victim they are safe by acknowledging that 1) you are safe, 2) it is not your fault, 3) I am here for you, 4) we are going to fight together so that he or she will never harm you are anyone else, and 5) it will be difficult, but your road to recovery is starting, and you are very brave for coming forth with your experience. 

There are people who don’t believe sexual assault victims.  Many will know someone that has been sexually assaulted, but “brush” their situation under the rug as if nothing ever occurred.  Well I want to be the first, but not the last person to say that it is time to speak up.  We can’t remain silent any longer.

If you or anyone you know is a victim of sexual assault contact MOSCA’s 24-Hour Crisis Line at (816) 531-0233, or you can also contact Michelle Kroner, who is the Victim Services Adjudication Advisor through the Women’s Center Violence Prevention and Response Project at (816) 235-1652.