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.

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

 

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.

Catcalling is not a Compliment, it’s Harassment

By Brittany Soto

Since our center has been promoting the “Meet us on The Street” event all throughout this week, focusing on the issues of gender-based street harassment, I wanted to turn my attention to one of my biggest pet peeves; catcalling. Catcalling is when an individual whistles, shouts, or makes sexual comments toward another individual as they are walking by. Women are often the ones faced with having to deal with this ridiculous issue. The fact that I get a little nervous when I decide to get dressed up because I don’t feel like getting harassed, is a problem. Women shouldn’t have to feel self-conscious or nervous every time they get dressed to head out the door or every time they pass by men on the street.

The most common defense that men have against this issue is that catcalls are their way of “complimenting” a woman’s looks. Going up to a woman and telling her she’s beautiful is one thing, but shouting “damn!” “hey sexy!” or whistling and honking the car horn as a woman walks by is a different story. Catcalling can even get to the point of being dangerous if women decide defend themselves or ignore the cat-callers, because often they will get offended causing them to act in an aggressive or intimidating manner by name calling or going as far as assaulting women. THIS is harassment.

What men need to understand is that catcalling is not cute, funny, or complimenting. It’s degrading, demeaning, and disgusting. It lets women know they are being objectified and looked at as nothing more than a piece of meat. It makes women feel as though they have no rights or values. Women are not dogs to be whistled at and they are not sexual objects. Women are more than their looks. Women have the right to be treated with as much respect and dignity when walking down the street as any man. Women deserve to feel safe.

For additional information on how women are fighting cat-calling visit: http://www.womensmediacenter.com/fbomb/how-i-took-a-stand-against-catcalling

Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)

By Caitlin Easter

“People want this to be an anomaly…. we can handle monsters, we can’t handle our neighbors doing these things. We can’t believe these are the same people we see at Christmas parties, and basketball games.” ― T. E. Carter

Did you know that 1 in every 3 women and 1 in 6 men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime? Did you know that in 8 out of every 10 rapes, the victim knew the perpetrator? April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so let’s talk about it. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center defines Sexual Assault Awareness Month as “a campaign to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent it.” This year’s theme is “I Am,” and serves to “champion the message that asking for consent is a healthy, normal, and necessary part of everyday interactions.”

In its officially documented capacity, this year is the 18th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM); if you’re wondering why this month should be important to you, I’ll tell you why—sadly, almost everyone knows a victim or a perpetrator, and sexual assault doesn’t seem to be a thing that is getting better. This campaign aims to bring awareness and spark a conversation about sexual assault and its long lasting effects. As we talk about it more, we create a safer and less stigmatized space to come forward and say #MeToo.

This month the Women’s Center, in partnership with campus sororities, will be hosting a Denim Drive from April 8 – April 19 and a Reclaiming Denim art event on April 19 where we will decorate the denim to prepare for Denim Day on April 24 where all of the denim artwork will be displayed on the quad as part of a sexual assault awareness campaign. We would love for you to join us!

The NSVRC has some amazing resources for understanding and teaching consent for Sexual Assault Awareness month. If you would like to view these resources, you can find them at https://www.nsvrc.org/saam

You can read more about the history of SAAM at: https://www.nsvrc.org/saam/history

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Deborah Tucker

By Brittany Soto

Deborah D. Tucker is best known for her efforts in taking steps to end violence against women. Her determination to advocate against violence began when she volunteered at the first rape crisis center in Texas in 1974. Since then, she has helped to create shelters, battered intervention programs and other services that aid women who are victims of domestic abuse. She went on to promote laws and policies in order to improve how law enforcement responds to these cases and became one of the co-founders of The National Center of Domestic and Sexual Violence. She has dedicated her life to advocating and speaking out against gender based violence and went on to receive many awards for her leadership and contribution to this issue. Among these awards, were the Domestic Violence Peace Prize, Standing in The Light of Justice, The Sunshine Lady Award, Outstanding Achievement Award, and her very own Deborah D. Tucker Staff Achievement Award.

Domestic violence is a serious issue that many women face and it’s people like Deborah D. Tucker who ensure this issue is never swept under the rug or forgotten about, It’s people like Deborah who act as a voice for the many women who are victims of domestic violence, and it’s people like Deborah who inspire me to want to help others and make a positive impact in the lives of others such as she has. In honor of Women’s History Month, I am proud to give a shout out to this amazingly compassionate woman.