The Power of Partnerships to Prevent Domestic and Sexual Violence

The success of partnerships in creating change in the domestic and sexual violence space is well documented. At the local level, we have seen the lasting impact of outstanding initiatives like Coordinated Community Response—started in Duluth, Minnesota and then implemented worldwide—as well as the Family Justice Centers and other one-stop-shops for survivors. These partnership models have created lasting impacts, significantly improving survivors’ access to support. At the local level, there is still much more work to do, and service providers must continuously expand their partnerships with other organisations in the domestic and sexual violence space to affect long-lasting change.

Only by working together, we will break down the stigma surrounding domestic and sexual violence, call out myths around sexuality and relationships, and achieve a future without violence. 

NO MORE was built on the idea that no one organisation alone can drive the culture change needed to prevent violence. In fact, the goal from the start was to break out of the existing, siloed ways of working, and instead integrate a global community of NGOs, leaders, changemakers, and more to learn from each other and affect change in their local communities. These examples of collaboration and partnership would then trickle down to our teachers, parents, coaches, and ultimately to the whole of society. We know that only by working together will we break down the stigma surrounding domestic and sexual violence, call out myths around sexuality and relationships, and achieve a future without violence. 

More than ever before, we can reach people in every aspect of their lives through technology—in schools, when dating, at work, and beyond. If, in all of these moments, we could remind people about the harm and scale of domestic and sexual violence, we could educate many on recognising and preventing abuse.

But we can only do this if governments believe in and join transformative prevention efforts. We urgently need governments to value prevention work as highly as it does legislative reforms and the provision of services. National strategy plans must be comprehensive and invest in a long-term solution for preventing violence against women and girls. Progress has been made over the past 40 years, and if we want it to continue, we need political vision and leadership to ensure that our next generations experience gender equity and the know-how to recognise healthy and unhealthy relationships.

This battle is ours to win; but we need commitment, leadership, and acknowledgment of the existing progress to remind all delegates attending #CHOGM22 and partners around the world that we have the collective power to make a difference. We need to take a stand against violence against women and girls—an epidemic that affects 1 in 3 women worldwide—including our friends, families, and colleagues. Together, we can end domestic and sexual violence.

 

#JoinTheChorus and let’s create transformational change.

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Victory Over Violence — Addressing Violence Against Women and Girls In and Through Sports

Globally, an estimated 736 million women—almost one in three—have been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both at least once in their life. Sports can be a way to put women and girls in the best, most positive light as strong, capable leaders and winners. However, too often violence against women and girls (VAWG) exists in sports and is perpetuated in the culture around sports.

Please join UN WomenGrace Farms Foundation, and The NO MORE Foundation for an important one-day forum on both the challenges and opportunities to address violence against women and girls in the world of sports.

Register Now

Sessions will include:

  • Addressing toxic cultural gender norms and biases and the importance of male involvement as part of the solution to GBV.
  • Lessons, experiences and best practices for a survivor-centered response to violence against women and girls in sports.
  • Improving access to justice for victims and survivors of VAWG in sports.
  • The role of professional and youth sports in preventing violence against women and girls and promoting women’s and girls’ agency and leadership.

See the full agenda here:

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Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War: Women’s Hidden Battle During Conflict

Warning: The following post contains descriptions of sexual violence.

With the horrifying mounting body of evidence emerging about Ukrainian women being raped during the conflict with Russia, we are once again reminded of the brutality of war. As one example, according to one news report, around 25 girls and women aged 14-24 were systematically raped in the basement of one house in Bucha.1 As warfare rages on and the violence escalates, women’s bodies have become part of the battlefield.

Systematic rape must no longer be dismissed as an inevitable by-product of war, but instead as a defining and deliberate tactic of modern conflicts that must be stopped. That’s why NO MORE and Avon have teamed up to increase awareness and engage with leaders and organisations to support survivors and prevent violence. 

Here’s what you need to know for starters:

1) The Magnitude of the Problem is Hard to Fully Know: We know it’s bad, but reliable global statistics on the magnitude of sexual violence during conflict do not exist. One reliable cross-national study found that wartime rape was significant in 62% of all major civil wars between 1980-2009.2 Due to shame, fear and other obstacles, the UN estimates that in conflict zones, for every rape that is reported, between 10 and 20 rapes are not.3

2) Yet, Understanding is Increasing: The issue has been progressively better understood over the last two decades. The atrocities during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and the Rwandan genocide in particular have helped to shed some light. An estimated 60,000 women were raped in the three-year Bosnian conflict4 and up to 250,000 in the hundred-day Rwandan genocide.5 In recent years, reports of sexual violence have been documented in conflicts in Bangladesh6, Myanmar7, Colombia8, Ethiopia9, South Sudan10, and many more.

3) It’s Not Only Rape: Conflict-related sexual violence has become almost synonymous with rape, however sexual violence takes a number of different forms in conflict and post-conflict settings. Other common forms of violence include sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, sexual slavery, and forced marriage including of minors.11 In addition to the scourge of conflict-related sexual violence, research has also found that domestic violence against women increases when conflict breaks out.12,13,14,15  

4) No One is Immune from Becoming a Victim: Sexual violence can be perpetrated against all groups of people, in all parts of the world, no matter race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, and gender – including women and men, boys and girls. Though conflict-related sexual violence against men and boys is widespread, men and boys are even less likely to report it due to enormous taboo around the topic.16

5) The Impact is Vast and Long-Lasting – The effects of sexual violence are devastating to individuals and damaging to whole communities. Physical consequences include unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections that “leave women scarred, disabled, unable to conceive and deemed unsuitable for marriage”.17 The resulting psychological trauma can include distress, shame, isolation and guilt, sleeping and eating disorders, depression, and a number of other behavioural disorders. It is not only the victims that are affected – partners, children and other family members also experience the trauma of guilt or shame.18 The physical and emotional consequences are often compounded by the loss of socio-economic stability and opportunity.19

You can find out more here. We can be active bystanders and raise our voices to speak out against sexual violence in conflict. Simply by sharing this with your friends and family you can be part of a movement to raise awareness and help to signpost vital support services for people who need them. Join us and raise your voice.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual violence, go to the NO MORE Global Directory and find support services in more than 205 countries, including Ukraine. 

We hope you will join us in speaking out and supporting ongoing efforts to stop conflict-related sexual violence, during Sexual Assault Awareness Month and beyond.

 

References:

  1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-61071243
  2. Dara Kay Cohen, “Explaining Rape during Civil War: Cross-National Evidence (1980–2009)”, American Political Science Review, Vol. 107, No. 3, 2013, pp. 461–477
  3. https://www.warchild.org.uk/news/hidden-victims-sexual-violence-war
  4. https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1359249/FULLTEXT01.pdf
  5. https://www.un.org/en/preventgenocide/rwanda/supporting-survivors.shtml
  6. https://brill.com/view/book/9789004389380/BP000007.xml
  7. https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-022-13038-7
  8. https://www.ecchr.eu/en/case/sexual-violence-in-the-colombian-conflict/
  9. https://www.amnestyusa.org/reports/tigrayan-forces-attacks-on-civilians-in-amhara-towns/
  10. https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/2022-03/A_HRC_49_CRP_4.pdf
  11. https://www.svri.org/sites/default/files/attachments/2016-01-14/A%20research%20agenda%20for%20sexual%20violence%20in%20humanitarian%2C%20conflict%20and%20post-conflict%20settings..pdf
  12. World Bank, Global Monitoring Report: Promoting Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, (Washington, DC, 2007)
  13. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/4/2/e003644
  14. Jose V Gallegos and Italo A Gutierrez, “The Effect of Civil Conflict on Domestic Violence: The Case of Peru,” working paper, August 3, 2011, available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1904417
  15. Lori Heise and Claudia Garcia-Moreno (2002), “Violence by Intimate Partners,” in Etienne G. Krug et al, eds., World Report on Violence and Health (Geneva: WHO, 2002), p. 100;  
  16. https://www.msf.org/sexual-violence
  17. PLoS Medicine Editors. Rape in war is common, devastating, and too often ignored. PLoS Med. 2009;6(1):e21. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000021  
  18. https://international-review.icrc.org/sites/default/files/irrc-894-sexual-violence-in-armed-conflict.pdf
  19. https://international-review.icrc.org/sites/default/files/irrc-894-sexual-violence-in-armed-conflict.pdf

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A Look Back at NO MORE Week 2022

NO MORE Week 2022 has come to a close, and I want to thank you. This year, we asked you to #JoinTheChorus for a week of action to help stop and prevent domestic and sexual violence, and you answered the call. The support we saw last week from individuals, survivors, businesses, organizations, and communities around the world has far exceeded our expectations.

Thousands of people were part of our second annual NO MORE Week Virtual 5k Walk/Run, and we saw supporters from across the globe share their photos and results online. The race not only raised much-needed awareness of the pervasiveness of domestic and sexual violence, but also critical funding to support our year-round prevention work. We’re grateful to all, especially to State Farm and the NFL, for helping to make the race an even bigger success this year.

We convened NO MORE chapters and partner organizations in the U.S., the UK, Ecuador, Africa, and Cyprus for virtual KNOW MORE Global Dialogue sessions. Over the course of the week, hundreds of attendees and viewers learned about critical topics like keeping victims safe during COVID-19, the importance of talking to children about preventing violence, and how we can center survivor voices in our prevention work. Keep your eyes peeled for clips from these powerful sessions on our social media.

We launched an important new prevention resource—our bilingual conversation guide— for parents to talk to children about healthy communication, sexuality, and relationships. “Talking Healthy Relationships” is particularly timely as the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to cause a surge in incidents of domestic and sexual violence and technology has fueled the spread of unhealthy images and communications. Both English and Spanish-speaking parents and caregivers can now get tips and resources for having these tough but necessary conversations with their kids. Download the guides today.

The support and action we saw during NO MORE Week has once again inspired and reenergized us. But our work doesn’t stop now. Sign the #JoinTheChorus pledge and work with us year-round to end domestic & sexual violence.

 

#JoinTheChorus

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El Futuro: El rol que juegan los padres y madres en prevenir la violencia doméstica y sexual

Una de las cosas más importantes en la que podemos estar de acuerdo todas las madres y padres es que cuando uno tiene hijos a alguien se le olvidó darnos el manual. Al dar ese paso, una nueva serie de experiencias, responsabilidades y temores nos acechan.

Con los años entendemos que no solo somos cuidadores, pero también formadores. Mucha de las experiencias que ellos tendrán en su vida con nosotros formaran su futuro desde sus gustos en comidas, deportes, pero más crucial como manejen sus emociones y su visión de como será su vida de adultos.

Aunque nos queramos reusar, una de las pocas cosas constantes en la vida es el tiempo. Llega el momento en que ellos no son bebes y empiezan a entender y explorar lo que son relaciones afectivas. Ese es el momento adonde la conversación y consejos deben iniciarse.

El silencio nunca es bueno. Quizás nos hemos criado en una casa adonde se hablaba poco acerca de sexualidad y relaciones emocionales. De seguir, ese camino eso significa que nuestra hija/os tendrán que buscar información y formarse por lo que escuchan de otros o directamente de experiencias, muchas de las cuales pueden ser negativas.

La guía de como abordar conversaciones acerca de relaciones, y sexualidad saludable, elaborada por Esperanza United y NO MORE aspira a hacer ser esa muleta de ayuda para todos los que empezamos a tener estas conversaciones con nuestros niños/as y adolescentes.

Si un consejo, corre a través de todo está guía es perder el miedo. Seamos honestos hablemos con nuestros hijos/as de nuestras vidas, de las lecciones que hemos y seguimos aprendiendo. Compartir nuestra humanidad es la mejor manera de que estas pláticas caigan en tierra fértil. Y el mejor momento siempre es cuando no hay un motivo para tenerlas, no hay que esperar a descubrir un novio/a o estar en medio de una situación porque corremos el riesgo de que suene a sermón, ya que talvez esa es la primera ves que hablamos del tema.

¿Por qué es importante hablar con nuestros hijos? Enseñarles lo que es una relación saludable les ayudara a reconocer los primeros signos de abuso si ellos están empezando una relación negativa. Lo harán por ellos mismos y en muchas ocasiones podrán tomar más pronto la decisión de dejar una situación que no les conviene.

Hablar de sexualidad saludable les ayudará a entender que ello/as deben buscar formas adonde disfruten compartir la intimidad con alguien y no hacer cosas que no les parecen. En este tema, la ignorancia da pie a muchas malas situaciones que pueden ser evadidas si nuestros hijos/as saben que esperar y como protegerse.

Mantengámonos informados acerca de nuevas tecnologías, talvez sea imposible competir con ellos en esto, pero las ideas básicas de como mantenernos protegidos en línea no son disimilares de las del mundo real.

Uno de los pasos más difíciles es reconocer y aceptar que el momento ha llegado para empezar a hablar de estos temas. Aceptar que nuestros niños/as crecen y que todas pláticas que tengamos los convertirán en mujeres y hombres fuertes, adonde habrá cada día menos espacio para relaciones abusivas o desbalanceadas. En NO MORE y Esperanza United solo podemos aspirar que esta guía sea un granito de arena en ese proceso, y un capítulo del manual que a alguien se le olvidó darnos cuando nos convertimos en madres o padres.

 

Descargue las guías de conversación para hablar con los niños/as sobre sexualidad, comunicación y relaciones saludables.

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Domestic Violence is Everyone’s Business

NO MORE Week is the perfect time to remind everyone in our communities about the role they can play in preventing domestic violence and sexual assault.  For the last eight years, Southwest PA Says NO MORE has hosted a breakfast for corporate and community leaders to talk about steps they can take to address domestic violence as it affects their workplace and workforce.

Why corporate leaders?  A 2018 national survey of domestic violence survivors found that more than 80% of victims report that the abuse affected their ability to do their job. Among those who reported work disruptions, 49% had missed one or more days of work and 53% said they lost their job because of the abuse.  Co-workers are often aware that something is wrong; they may try to help or to cover for a colleague who is scared or distracted. And if an abusive partner comes to the workplace to confront their victim, it can quickly become a safety issue for bystanders, including colleagues and customers. For all these reasons and more, if someone is being abused at home, it comes to work with them.  And the prevalence of domestic violence means that all workplaces experience the effects.

Every year during NO MORE Week, Southwest PA Says NO MORE focuses on educating employers to Recognize the signs of domestic violence, be prepared to Respond to employees who are unsafe, and Refer them to community resources for assistance and support.  This breakfast is a joint effort of United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, FISA Foundation, and STANDING FIRM: The Business Case to End Partner Violence.  STANDING FIRM is a national program that empowers employers to address the workforce impacts of domestic violence through training, resources, and policy assistance.

It’s been so gratifying to see our corporate community embrace this issue, by implementing training programs, upgrading policies, sponsoring programs, and speaking out against domestic violence through our annual Father’s Day Pledge

 

If you or a loved one has experienced domestic and/or sexual violence and is seeking help, the NO MORE Global Directory offers contact information for services in over 200 countries around the world. Visit NOMOREDirectory.org today.

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NO MORE Week: Oh How You’ve Grown!

The first NO MORE Week was in March of 2014. The idea grew out of our self-proclaimed “NO MORE Day” which marked the launch of NO MORE the year before.

NO MORE Day had gone well, so we figured why limit ourselves to 24 hours when our goal was to unite as many people as possible under the NO MORE umbrella? A week gave us so much more time to work with— especially as NO MORE caught on and campaigns and chapters sprung up first around the country—and then the world.

Timing the event to coincide with International Women’s Day (IWD) was next, giving us so many more opportunities to engage supporters and add new voices to ours. From releasing research and running fundraising challenges in support of domestic and sexual violence organizations across the US to hosting music events during South by Southwest and launching new PSA campaigns, the seven days of NO MORE Week give the whole NO MORE community a chance to unite in a visible and powerful way.

Over the years, millions of people around the world have taken part in NO MORE Week. We’ve had billboards in Times Square and spots running on networks like NBC and Discovery seen by millions more. We’ve had thousands of companies, allied organizations, college campus groups holding their own events and activities. And it’s not just been about awareness, though still critically important. NO MORE Week has fueled positive actions. New NO MORE chapters have been born to make change on a local level. New and improved policies at companies to address domestic and sexual violence have been launched. New global movements such as our partnership with the Commonwealth of Nations reaching 54 countries have been created and expanded.

As we start the ninth year of NO MORE Week, I am certain it will be another impactful event. This year I am most excited for three big efforts:

  • The NO MORE Week Virtual 5K Run/Walk: With thousands of registrants from around the world, this run/walk sponsored by State Farm and the NFL is an opportunity for many businesses, schools, community organizations, and everyday people to #JointheChorus to end domestic and sexual violence. Survivors, advocates, families, friends, colleagues, neighbors can link up and complete the race together — even if they have to be physically apart. It also gives people less comfortable with the issue, and there are still too many, a chance to get involved. Sign-ups are available any time during the week.
  • The KNOW MORE Global Dialogue Series: Throughout the week, NO MORE chapters and partners from around the world will host special events and conversations on the importance of ending domestic and sexual violence. From the UK to Washington State, these sessions will feature expert speakers addressing a range of topics related to preventing violence and supporting survivors. Review the full list of events to sign up.
  • “Talking Healthy Relationships: Conversation Guide for Parents and Caregivers” We are proud to be launching new parenting/caregiver conversation guides in partnership with Esperanza United that are focused on how to talk to kids about healthy relationships. The guides are available in English and Spanish and are particularly timely as parents are asking for these resources in order to have necessary, but sometimes difficult conversations with their kids to help prevent violent or unhealthy relationships before they begin. Stay tuned, these guides will be launched on March 9th.

No one human or nonprofit can change a culture that perpetuates domestic and sexual violence until it’s so common that only the most horrific and sensational stories even being to pierce our collective consciousness. But each new person that comes to the table, each new voice that speaks out, each new NO MORE campaign that launches to raise awareness of domestic and sexual violence gets us one step closer to reaching that time when we don’t need to say NO MORE because the violence has stopped.

 

Get Involved during NO MORE Week

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KNOW MORE – Global Dialogue on Ending Domestic and Sexual Violence

KNOW MORE

Global Dialogue on Ending Domestic & Sexual Violence During NO MORE Week 2022

Throughout NO MORE Week 2022, NO MORE chapters and partners from around the world will participate in the second annual KNOW MORE Global Dialogue series. From the UK to Washington State, these sessions will feature expert speakers addressing a range of topics related to preventing domestic and sexual violence and supporting survivors. See more information and the full list of webinars below.

March 6

Washington Says NO MORE
Building a Movement Against Domestic and Sexual Violence: The History of NO MORE – 1:00 pm EST
Join leaders from NO MORE and Washington Says NO MORE for a session on the history of NO MORE’s nine years of work to end domestic and sexual violence. We will discuss NO MORE’s beginnings, lessons learned, and what it means to be a leader in the prevention space.

Register

March 8-9

Avon
Business Fights Poverty Gender Summit 
Hear from leading GBV experts and advocates including Pamela Zaballa (CEO of NO MORE), Natalie Deacon (President of Avon Foundation for Women) and more on the actions that businesses can take to tackle GBV in the workplace. The session gives advice on how to overcome the key challenges facing business and how to develop and implement strategies in your own organization.

The event is hosted by Avon as part of the Business Fights Poverty Gender Summit – use the following code to get free access: GS22FRIEND

Register

March 10

NO MORE
Voices Leading Change: Survivors at the Heart of Prevention – 1 pm – 2 pm EST
Join NO MORE, FKA twigs, Leslie Morgan Steiner, and Mildred Muhammad for a webinar session on the importance of centering survivor voices and experiences in our efforts to prevent domestic and sexual violence. 

Register

 

Ecuador Dice NO MÁS, Esperanza United, & NO MORE
Cómo Prevenir la Violencia Doméstica y Sexual: Herramientas para Madres, Padres y Cuidadores – Una perspectiva Latinoamericana – 5:00 pm EST
Join specialists from across Latin America, the US and Europe in a Spanish-language webinar session on how parents and caregivers can use educational tools to prevent domestic violence and sexual violence.

Únase a especialistas de América Latina, EE. UU. y Europa en una seminario web en español sobre cómo los padres y cuidadores pueden usar herramientas educativas para prevenir la violencia doméstica y la violencia sexual.

Register

March 11

UK Says NO MORE
NO MORE Week: Community Response to Domestic Abuse – A Year in Review –
7:00 am EST
In the Community Response to Domestic Abuse webinar, UK SAYS NO MORE is joined by business leaders from Boots UK, Network Rail, and Scottish Women’s Aid and more exploring how they have been working with their local communities to respond to domestic abuse during the pandemic.

Register

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Time for a Global Effort on Gender-Responsive Policing to Help Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls

Today, I had the tremendous honor of speaking at the Generation Equality Forum on the invitation of the Government of France and UN Women. I appreciated the opportunity to share NO MORE’s perspective on the prevention of gender-based violence and the urgent need to find solutions using a global lens. 

NO MORE recently launched an online Global Directory of support services in more than 205 countries and territories with the aim to give victims the information they need to leave behind an abusive relationship or report sexual assault if they desire.

A gender-responsive police force in every interaction demonstrates that domestic violence and sexual assault are crimes. They demonstrate that these crimes are taken seriously, that they are not caused by the victims but by perpetrators.

The issue is what happens when women do come forward. Many of them do not get a good response from their local police force. They lack faith that they will have the moral and physical support of an agency that should be protecting their basic rights.

And who can blame them? Even countries with large, credible police forces and justice systems have appallingly low rates of convictions. So as we hear constantly from our large network—what is the point of reporting? 

We need to change this.

The key to ending gender-based violence is prevention. And prevention starts with the ability to identify and analyze the root causes of violence against women and girls in order to find solutions that create the impact that we desire. Lack of accountability and protection allows this form of violence to continue. 

There are many ways to execute primary forms of prevention, such as campaigns and education, but there is one crucial area that we speak less of and that UN Women’s gender-responsive policing handbook has addressed brilliantly—this is prevention by example. 

A gender-responsive police force in every interaction demonstrates that domestic violence and sexual assault are crimes. They demonstrate that these crimes are taken seriously, that they are not caused by the victims but by perpetrators. Police forces that can sustain that level of commitment will show the generations to come that violence against women and girls is not acceptable, is not permitted, and is not the norm.

This is not our current reality. In many countries, even where much investment has happened, we see a minimal quantity of cases charged and even less prosecuted. Governments and police forces that now come out to apologize for their failures have also apologized for the same issues a decade ago. That is not good enough! 

Therefore, leadership is the bedrock for progress on the gender police responsive agenda. Leadership that is prepared to take the fundamental steps to fuel culture change in policing where it is needed. Leadership that insists that policing focuses on the actions of the perpetrator and not solely on the credibility of the victim. And leadership that updates or institutes laws that will enable charges to be filed and, more importantly, to stick. 

Despite the enormous efforts of many police forces globally, there is still a long road ahead to walk. 

Local efforts are the primary steps, but in an interconnected world, another way to set an example is to know what other countries are doing and to share lessons learned within our networks. Part of our strategy has to be to grow together globally. 

Networks that focus on the exchange of ideas and experiences from gender-responsive policing are needed. Such networks need to be diverse and break the north-south divide to understand that innovation and good practice are happening in many places and not only in the better-resourced ones. 

Today, we invited governments from all over the world to come together and share their progress on gender-responsive policing and say NO MORE to the low rates of referrals, charges, and convictions we see globally. This will be achieved worldwide when women believe they will get fair treatment if they report and that justice will prevail.

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One Survivor’s Journey of Art, Music, and Passion

Lindsay Diles is a musician, sexual assault survivor, and activist. She sat down to share her experiences and tips for other survivors to navigate their healing during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Can you tell us a little about your experiences as a survivor of sexual violence?

I was in my second year of college when I met the individual who, little did I know at the time, would change the course of my entire life, in an instant.  

We met working together at a restaurant. He invited me to a party he was having at his place, telling me that there would be people there who would be “good for me to meet” (I was just changing my major over to Theater).  He came to pick me up after we got out of work, as my car died earlier that day, and on the way, he made it a point to reassure me that if I needed a ride back to my place, he would take care of it.  Throughout the night, we talked, shared stories, really seemed to hit it off. 

We started out at his apartment, where the party was going on, and eventually made our way downtown to a dance club. I watched my drink the entire night, never setting it down or taking my eyes off it for a second.  I knew where all of the exits were, in a weird way – as if my body could anticipate something felt off.  I was with people I didn’t know very well and so I was being extra cautious. We danced, kissed, had a great time, and then the party moved back to his apartment, where I realized I wasn’t feeling well. I knew I hadn’t had that much to drink but something just felt “off.”  He offered his bedroom as a quiet place where I could rest, away from everyone.  Little did I know, moments later, that would be the place where my life was changed forever.  

The Aftermath 

Everything was completely upside down.  I was confused.  Things weren’t making sense.  I remember thinking that I liked this guy and yet I also remember saying NO.  Multiple times. I remember being frozen, completely detached from my body at one point, as if I was watching a movie.  “It was someone else that was on the screen, not me.  These things didn’t happen to me.  I was careful.” I remember saying that I needed to go home, back to my apartment, and he said that it was too late and the cabs weren’t running this late.  And I remember believing him.  

I was a virgin.  

My brain couldn’t comprehend what was happening and that all of a sudden I had become “a statistic.” 

I remember coming back to my apartment and telling my roommates “Yes, I had sex, but I said no,” and still, my brain didn’t register what that actually meant. I remember showering, starting to process it all, trying to wash out the shame, guilt, fear, confusion.  I threw away my underwear. 

There was a bubble inside me that wanted to keep this a secret.  I was embarrassed, ashamed, and didn’t want anyone else to know what happened.  I felt as if I did something to bring this on myself. “Maybe I should have said this, or shouldn’t have said that.” We all know that’s not the case, now. 

Inside that bubble rose a voice that was fighting to be heard.  It wanted to fight, to be seen, believed, vindicated.  I went to the police, DA, local authorities, yet I received responses similar to many victims where the questioning was turned back to me. “What was I wearing, how much did I have to drink, why did I go to the bedroom…” I was completely dismissed, then dismantled. 

Speaking Out 

I had one last shot and that was campus representation.  Finally, someone would represent me – through a campus trial. When I decided to come forward and people started to find out, instead of being met with support and compassion, I was made into a mockery.  Shamed. Ridiculed. Scoffed at. Betrayed. “Friends” taking sides. Belittled. Threatened. Property vandalized. 

Somehow, I kept going. 

I remember the ones who stood up for me, even when they were in the minority.  I am grateful for them to this day. They are the ones who sat in the back corner of the campus courtroom even when they were outnumbered by the “defendant’s side.” They are the ones who stood up for me and spoke on my behalf as witnesses, even when they were outnumbered and in the minority. The one who held my mother’s hand in that courtroom for 13 hours as the campus trial dragged on from night into the morning, while my father sat beside me to face “the defendant” together. 

I choose to use the word “defendant” because this individual no longer affects my world.  This individual has never faced jail time, although he was found guilty. This individual walks the streets where our loved ones also walk. This individual knows exactly what was done and will have to live with that.  But this individual no longer affects my world. 

The Comeback

“Go where you feel safe and celebrated. Remember you are not alone.”

I share all this because it’s important to recognize there’s a lot more that goes on beyond the act of rape itself, which in and of itself is traumatic enough. The aftermath that follows is a huge component that leaves a significant impact. It has affected me significantly and still does in certain moments to this day. 

My story is not about a finish line. My story is not about the rainbows and butterflies that come in once you’ve “unlocked the next achievement” or the “finish line” that you cross.  The truth is, some days that “finish line” seems like it keeps getting pulled further away. Other days, you do “unlock the next achievement.” My story is about taking my power back.  Taking my power back means getting to say “you no longer affect my happiness and my ability to rise” and developing ways to dance with this trauma, not away from it, to use it as fuel to continue to rise. My story is about reclaiming my own power – back in my body, in my mind, in my environment, in the way I speak to myself – it’s about embracing and celebrating myself for who I am, my body for doing everything in her power to survive, embracing my journey, my “messiness” and my resilience during every single step of this healing journey. This power lives in YOU – no matter how many doors it takes to access, all you need is the right key that works for you.  

How have your experiences as a sexual assault survivor shaped your work as a musician and artist? 

Singing literally saved my life. As a musician and artist, my experiences as a sexual assault survivor have helped me access a place of vulnerability and passion within myself that has helped tremendously in my healing process. Taking raw emotions and turning them into an art form has always been a way in which I’ve processed and gotten through tough situations.  It has shaped the way I focus, perform, and express the feelings experienced in music and lyrics in songs to tell these stories in the most authentic way. When I’m performing on stage, I’m home. 

No matter the feeling – love, sadness, heartbreak, anger, hurt, happiness – there’s someone out there who has been in that place or experiencing these feelings. I truly feel as an artist, it is both my duty and honor to be able to access these feelings and express them in a manner that brings this story to life in such a relatable way. It is a way to use your voice to speak out on behalf of those who may not be able to or feel they have one. 

We turn pain into power, and healing into helping others. We continue to shine our light so other survivors can find us, even if that lightsaber gets heavy. 

“Unshaken” is a song I wrote to help me get through my own feelings as part of my healing process, and my hope is that it can continue to heal others the way it’s helped a portion of my healing in writing it.

In your healing, what people and relationships have been most beneficial to you? How do you prioritize fostering those relationships?


The ones who truly see me and celebrate me for who I am, in all of my “messy moments” or “being too much” are the true warriors, because they keep showing up and keep supporting me no matter what.  I am extremely grateful for my immediate family, my “framily” (close friends who have become family), and my coach and therapist(s) who have been an amazing support system for me over the years in the many stages of my healing process. The most beneficial relationships for me have been the ones who have been next to me on the path in my journey back to finding myself again.  

In order to access my light again, I’ve had to sit with many extremely dark times – extremely long periods of time that sometimes I wasn’t sure if I would ever come out of these moments. No matter how dark it gets, even moments as I’ve recollected my thoughts for this blog, I’ve had to constantly remind myself that it does get better.  It’s in these moments, the not so easy parts, where my friends, family and coaching support I’ve received on this journey have stepped up and shown me what it feels to experience love, support and safety, which has transformed into how I may be that person for myself. My friends and family, coach and therapists, have helped me ride these waves, no matter how rough it gets – sometimes handing me the surfboard and other times peeling me off the bottom of the ocean, as I figured out how I could “shine” again.   

I am extremely grateful for the friends and family along the way who have allowed me to feel safe again, which has been extremely beneficial to my healing.

What techniques do you employ to soothe yourself when you feel triggered? How have these techniques improved your life?


Beyond the mud masks and spa time, in addition to music providing a great way for me to self-soothe, it’s not always accessible. I’ve put together a “Trigger Toolkit” for myself to help in times when I’m feeling activated/triggered, when it’s hard to catch my breath and the knots in my stomach start coming on in full force. These techniques have improved my life significantly. Each item in these toolkits may look different for everyone, depending on what works for each individual.

I can react, but I’m still in control – of my body, of my mind, of my safety.

Here are some samples from my “Trigger Toolkit”:

  • Moving my body – yoga, running, walks, kickboxing, punching pillows, dancing, sensual movement, breaking a sweat
  • Ripping paper/cardboard – soothing/stress relieving sensation (provided by former therapist)
  • Deep breathing – alternate nostril breathing, left nostril breathing, counting your breaths “in for 3, 2, 1, out for 3, 2, 1” or “in for 4, 3, 2, 1, out for 4, 3, 2, 1”
  • Adding mantras to breaths – Breathe in “I am here,” Breathe out “I am safe.” (or create your own saying that works for you)
  • Adding tapping to breaths – alternating fingers, maybe even breathing with tapping and mantras
  • Meditating – quieting the mind and drawing your attention inward, sometimes with music, other times in silence, depending on the mood
  • Looking up at the moon, breathing it in and out – same with sunsets
  • Making a list of things you are grateful for
  • Trauma-informed yoga
  • Notice 3 things you can see, hear, feel, smell – bringing awareness to present surroundings
  • Take rest – whether it means canceling or rescheduling obligations until you feel safe to resume, or simply taking time out of your day to find stillness, rest your body, nourish your body, give your body sleep and rest she deserves

Based on your experiences, what is one message that you would share with other survivors as they embark on their healing journeys?

I’m a person going through life who has been violated, is still recovering, and has something to say.

To the thrivers who have endured incredible strength through unimaginable circumstances. You are fierce, you are strong, and you are not alone.

Healing is not linear – it can show up in circles where some days you’re on top and others, you’re at the bottom of the wheel. The important part is that you keep showing up for yourself, every single day, especially on the hard days. I constantly have to work at my own “stuff.”  I have to ask myself, “What does my body need?” “How can I best take care of ME right now?” Allowing ourselves to sit with the triggers as they come in, feel it to heal it, and have compassion for yourself.

GO WHERE YOU FEEL SAFE AND CELEBRATED.

REMEMBER YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

 

Follow Lindsay on social media at @lindsaydilesmusic.

If or someone you love has experienced sexual violence and is seeking free, confidential support, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

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