Rihanna and Chris Brown Reunion?: Why Domestic Abuse Must Not Be Portrayed as Acceptable

The topic of choice this month for PAVE is Healthy Relationships. While February is almost over I want to continue the conversation considering recent news of Rihanna and Chris Brown collaborating on a remix, “Birthday Cake” and confirmation that they are “rekindling” their relationship after Rihanna was a victim of violent abuse in their previous relationship. While this “rekindling” is sure to get a lot of media coverage, I appreciate the feministing.com post going directly to the bigger issues involved that are more important than the celebrity couple reunion itself.

The post discussed how this would affect the conversation on domestic violence being that a reunion between the two celebrities would be a widely viewed, public affair. As mentioned in the post, this raises concern in part because it is not unlikely for victims to return to their abusers; but what kind of example does this set? Will people use this to cut off a real discussion about domestic violence, and the circumstances and norms that surround the issue because a female celebrity chose to restart a professional and/or personal relationship with her perpetrator?

I want to talk about why this happens. Why do victims of domestic violence return to their abuser? I am aware that their are circumstances that prevent victims from getting out of an abusive relationship, but that does not make the violence okay. I agree with the article that the main point is that even if Rihanna and Chris Brown get back together, domestic abuse is unacceptable with no exceptions. I just hope fans of Rihanna and Chris Brown don’t form the wrong impression about domestic abuse from this.



Shattering the Silence of Sexual Violence in the New Year: FBI’s New and Improved Definition of Rape


The new year is marked with change for the better as we work to improve something about ourselves or the world around us. This time of year made it all the more exciting to hear from Ms. Magazine that the FBI is officially redefining ‘rape.’ Huffington Post explained that the new definition removes ‘forcible’ to broaden the requirement of what is consider rape to include victims who are unable to give consent. The new definition also removes language that requires the victim be a woman.

I have been personally following the Ms. and Feminist Majority Foundation campaign, Rape is Rape: No More Excuses, which was sparked by the discovery that the FBI’s definition of ‘rape’ limited police departments from reporting all rape cases to be represented in federal statistics. Without a broader definition the prevalence and seriousness of rape and sexual violence is not made obvious to the public because it is misreported altering crime trend statistics. An article in The New York Times also pointed out that these inaccurate statistics affect the amount of resources made available to law enforcement and private agencies alike to put towards ending this violence.

This is indefinitely a step towards bringing attention to the devastating prevalence of sexual violence in the United States. With more information brought to the public’s attention there should be an increased awareness and higher demand to work on prevention that will lead to an end of rape and sexual violence!



Thankful for Survivors’ Stories that Shatter the Silence of Sexual Violence

Thanksgiving is this week and I wanted to take a moment to thank survivors of sexual or dating violence who have shared their stories shattering the silence of their suffering and encouraging others to do the same. PAVE introduced “My Stories” to motivate us to share our stories of how we have been affected by sexual and dating violence. “Survivor Stories,” by photographer Teresa Prince, is another project that focuses on the importance of survivors sharing their stories.

“What I really want to do is get their words out there so that victims who are still suffering can read this and realize they are not alone,” said Prince.

Prince’s “Survivor Stories” project is not her first project about sexual assault awareness. Her first project, “Speaking Through Silence: Survivor Stories” shined light on the issue and was a part of her healing as a survivor. With her current project Prince wants to focus on how others made this transition from victim to survivor and to bring hope to other victims still suffering in silence.

Prince’s project combines photography and story collecting to share more than just the words of survivors. Prince explained she wants to give a voice and a face to their experience because that makes the stories real, and these men and women deserve to be heard.

“If we never get a face or a name then this kind of becomes a victimless, faceless crime unless we get the real stories out there,” said Prince, “We cannot ignore it.”

I whole heartedly agree with Prince in the importance of sharing the reality of the many men and women who have been a victim of sexual and dating violence. I am so thankful for the work she is doing and I want to encourage others to share their stories.

We all have a voice and we all deserve to be heard because the world deserves to hear our story.



University Action Taken in Penn State Sexual Assault Scandal, But is it Enough?

Many of you may have received the PAVE Action Alert about the Penn State sexual assault scandal involving a former coach. Many more of you may have heard about the story recently in the news, but how many of us have responded with action to prevent and stop this violence from taking place and going unreported?

Jerry Sandusky, the former football defensive coordinator at Penn State, was charged with several counts of various offenses including sexual assault all involving young men. The Associated Press article, ‘Penn State Ex-Coach Charged in Sexual Abuse Case,’ reported the following:

Sandusky, who worked with at-risk children through his Second Mile organization, was charged with seven counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse; eight counts of corruption of minors, eight counts of endangering the welfare of a child, seven counts of indecent assault and other offenses. A preliminary hearing for Sandusky is scheduled for Wednesday.

This article also reported that Tim Curley, the athletic director at Penn State , had lied in his testimony to knowing of Sandusky’s actions according to the grand jury report. Despite these allegations Curley is not being held liable along with other football officials accused of knowing about Sandusky’s assaults by the university. It seemed the university was continuing its Division I football as if nothing unsettling had happened. However, the growing criticism from this scandal did result in the firing of Joe Paterno, the head football coach at Penn State, and Penn State president Graham Spanier. Other than this though, the university has not any other taken action involving other football officials.

A troubling follow up story from the Associated Press reported that John Matko, an alumni of Penn State, received a negative reaction from his protest at the Penn State football game last Saturday. Another article did report that attendees of the football game ‘showed their symbolic support for victims of child abuse’ by buying shirts and donating money to child abuse prevention organizations.

I feel like the university took the least amount of action necessary to avoid an uproar from its students, employees, alumni, and the general public. If this is where the action stops in response to this violence then it is simply not enough. This is something we need to be talking about. Incidents such as these cannot be covered for their shock value and then forgotten when the media moves on to another story. We have to look at what was going on that would allow something like this to take place.

I want university officials along with the media to take responsibility to explore and talk about the issue of sexual violence; especially in that men and women, and boys and girls are at risk.

How can we move forward and turn this into an opportunity to raise awareness, promote bystander efforts, and talk about why there should be zero tolerance for perpetrators of sexual violence?



Edgy Website has Great Message But Owes Viewers More Content

The website israpefunny.com provides various responses to simply and directly send the same message: Rape is NOT funny.

As far as shock value goes, this website offers that, which at least captures the viewer’s attention for a moment. This however presents the opportunity to offer educational material, which is a vital component to prevention of sexual violence. The website tell us that sexual violence is absolutely not a humorous topic, but it does it in such a blunt way that I worry it may actually turn people away from further thinking about or discussing the topic. It has to invite us to further explore the reasons why sexual violence is not funny and why it is important that we take action of some kind.

The website does include ‘Resources list TBA,’ so hopefully those resources will be helpful and soon added. I would like to see a discussion forum offered here to at least create an environment for people to share their reactions to the website. What would you like to see added this website? Do you think it is appropriate in efforts to stop sexual violence?



Feminism: A Topic for Everyone

A post from Ileana Jiménez on Feminist Teacher makes a lot of great points about including males in feminist discourse. She writes from experience of teaching a high school level feminism course. Something males gain from this class, that seems to include a lot of in-class discussion, is the opportunity to realize and share how they have been socialized to expressed themselves as males in emotionless, unhealthy ways.

The most sustainable, real change occurs when those who are changing come to the conclusion to do so themselves.  This same sort of consciousness is mentioned in this blog post, and I think this is crucial for any social issues class. Furthermore, it is all the more important considering the environment it creates for males to share and express themselves, which is not typical traditional masculine supported behavior.

‘How to Teach Boys to be Feminists’ on The Frisky makes this same point and offers helpful guidelines to teach feminism to ‘our boys.’ It offers suggestions for younger males than those Jiménez has worked with as a high school teacher, but things like discussing what they see in the media to create a general awareness of the ideas and concepts being communicated through various mediums is something that is never too late to incorporate in a boy’s or man’s life.

The Frisky post also suggests making play dates for children that includes both girls and boys (photo source: http://www.inmagine.com/cd253/320024rkn-photo)

The Frisky post also suggests making play dates for children that includes both girls and boys (photo source: http://www.inmagine.com/cd253/320024rkn-photo)

Jiménez’s reflections on teaching this class offer a great perspective for us as we move forward to create social change. She says her goal is, ‘That whole generations of women and men will never experience and/or perpetrate everything from street harassment to rape; frat boy misogyny to work place discrimination; bullying of queer kids to the banning of LGBT soldiers in the military.’ This is my dream too, and what motivates me to act in ways that support this happening. What motivates you?


Females Veterans, Victims of Sexual Assault During Service


An unsettling article recently published on the BBC News Magazine website overviews the various spheres of torment females who serve in the armed forces risk experiencing – including sexual assault.

Military sexual trauma, MST, includes sexual harassment and sexual assault. It is called ‘Rape by Rank’ because often perpetrators are victims’ colleagues, fellow soldier in arms. The suffering that is already a part of any soldiers time spent away from home and loved ones is worsened by complete betrayal within the unity and trust that is supposed to exist within any military unit.

This type of community goes past the reality that every woman and man is someone’s child or loved one. In this type of community every woman and man is a sister or brother. That is the idea that should develop when you train or work in an environment where trusting everyone around you with your life and trusting their life to you is a core part of military life. One victim shared in the article that she and fellow female soldiers would make sure they went to the showers together, which shows the heightened defensive environment created by MST.

Unfortunately this is not just an issue in the US military.  ‘Skype scandal reveals a decades-old rape culture in Australia’s military,’ is a recent post on Feministing about the Australian Defense Force’s response to cadets experiencing sexual assault perpetrated by fellow cadets.

According to the article, 14.5% of active members in the military are women and 15% (according to recorded reports) of female veterans experience military sexual assault. It talked about how these women deal with the same negative effects of warfare as men including PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I feel there has been a lot of focus on addressing this when soldiers return from deployment, and there should be just as much attention given to cases of Military sexual trauma. It is a terrible truth that this happens within the armed forces community, but it is even worse that military administration is not actively working against it.

I think it is going to take administrative action for structural change in the environment it creates for our military – but where does that start? What does it take to induce action by those in positions of power to create change?

- Sarah

News story to check out: Latinos Decry ‘Secure Communities’ In D.C.

This story caught my attention yesterday while listening to the morning news.

A current issue in Washington, D.C. is one we are likely to face in different cities nationwide. As the federal government takes action against illegal immigration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) works with local law enforcement agencies to use arrest records to check for undocumented immigrants. ‘Secure Communities’ is aimed at deporting criminals who are undocumented immigrants.

The story addresses the resulting problem of ‘Secure Communities’ of further silencing victims of domestic abuse who are also undocumented immigrants because they do not want to risk deportation themselves.

The article explains that in many reported cases of domestic abuse the victim and abuser are initially arrested until law enforcers fully address the situation to identify what happened and who was at fault.

Picture URL: http://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/content/features/detail/778/

(also availabe in Spanish)

This further complicates victims of sexual assault, who are also undocumented immigrants, from reporting these crimes and getting help. The obstacles that already exist for these women include limited English language skills and lack of knowledge of the resources available to them. All of these, including fear caused by ‘Secure Communities’ then become a factor abusive partners can use to keep power over the victim.

Does your town or city participate in ‘Secure Communities’? How did your community react to the policy?  Or, how do you think this would affect your community?

Importance of Bystander Intervention for Those at Risk of committing Sexual Violence Themselves

‘Sexual violence victimization of Women: Prevalence, Characteristics, and the Role of Public Health and Prevention’ is another great article in the September/October 2011 issue of American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. As a follow up to my most recent post, a response to ‘Violence and Men’s Health: Understanding the Etiological Underpinnings of Men’s Experiences With Interpersonal Violence,’ this article made me think about how critical it is for perpetrators (or those showing signs of becoming perpetrators of sexual or interpersonal violence) to change on the individual level. Again, approaching this issue like a disease with a cure I want to highlight a suggested course of action that I think could make even more of a difference than the article suggests.

The ‘Sexual Violence Victimization of Women’ article discusses bystander prevention programs for males with symptoms of becoming perpetrators. Kathleen C. Basile and Sharon G. Smith suggest that these programs will raise awareness among males of peers that may be at risk of committing sexual violence. I completely agree with their thinking that this will make a difference because of the power of influence our peer groups have on our ideologies and decisions. I see such bystander prevention programs as also positively affecting at risk males as a bystander. Those at risk as bystanders are then also aware of themselves. One of the greatest effects a bystander can initiate is to make a perpetrator reflect on their words or actions. Programs that support and teach at risk males the importance of intervention seems like it would indefinitely heightened self-awareness of they themselves committing this same violence.

Such bystander prevention programs are recommended in association with working with adolescent males. When the root of this problem are ideas that make sexual violence or any violent victimization okay then that is exactly what we have to address directly. I do want to point out that parents as bystanders, who are aware of their influence and active in making the making a positive impact on their child understand their crucial role as well. ‘Violence and males’ tells us that parental supervision is higher with girls’ activities versus boys’ activities, and this is linked to the differences in physical aggression. I feel that this is something that individuals in parenting positions should consider, if for no other reason than to be aware of it. No more ‘boys will be boys’ kind of ideas. How can we put this into action? Is this something to consider as teachers or babysitters or older siblings as well?