Promoting Awareness | Victim Empowerment (PAVE)’s #ConsentIs Campaign

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Our friends at Promoting Awareness | Victim Empowerment (PAVE), a DC-based nonprofit organization that works to prevent sexual assault and heal survivors nationwide, launched a national social media campaign #ConsentIs to raise awareness, shatter the silence of sexual violence and promote the five essentials of consent: verbal, sober, enthusiastic, freely given and consistent.

Consent Is Campaign“We live in a cultural climate where cases of sexual assault are recurrent. Far too often these cases go unreported. With easy access to social media, we have an opportunity to educate young people who face these challenges. The #ConsentIs campaign is an interactive approach to spreading awareness of such a serious issue. We want to reduce cases of sexual assault and create a culture of respect,” says Angela Rose, PAVE’s Executive Director.

A survey released this week by the Association of American Universities Campus shows that 1 in 4 college women say they have been physically forced or threatened with force into nonconsensual sexual contact, highlighting the need to educate on the importance of consent in every relationship.

To join the campaign, you can order your own soft elastic, gender neutral, custom “Consent Is____” wristband here or simply share what consent means to you on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #ConsentIs.

 

GET THE WRISTBAND DOWNLOAD #CONSENTIS POSTERS

VISIT THE #ConsentIS WEBSITE

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This week, we sat down with filmmaker Hannelore Williams, director of the forthcoming three part documentary webseries, LoveStruck. In LoveStruck, Williams interviews both survivors and perpetrators of domestic violence, honestly exploring the personal toll of the nationwide epidemic.

How did you get involved with the issue of domestic violence?

As a documentary filmmaker I’ve come to my topics from a place of personal experience or connection.  I was about halfway into filming my previous documentary, Dirty 30 [about HIV/AIDS], when the realization hit that if I really wanted to make a documentary that hits home for me, I would make one on domestic violence.  It’s something that has had a grip on my life in many ways and at different times, but when it came to portrayals in the media I rarely saw anything that spoke to me straight on.  So I decided that’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to make something that wouldn’t make me feel like a victim or bad or weak if I had tuned in on one of my darker days.

Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to make LoveStruck?

Getting to make LoveStruck was a hurdle.  Maybe brought on by myself.  I can be very impatient as a filmmaker.  I didn’t want to apply to a bunch of grants a bunch of times and wait a year or ten to finally get funding to make it.  I guess part of picking a truly personal topic comes with the urgency to see it made.  Fortunately, my now husband agreed that this was a vital topic and LoveStruck needed to be realized.  We formed a Foundation whose mission is to educate and empower communities, this is the first project we’ve produced as a Foundation.

Do you think domestic violence is a difficult subject to tackle on film?

It’s very difficult.  There are so many things to consider.  First and foremost, the safety and mental health of the people you interview. Next, is how to handle interviews.  Do you reenact or not.  I personally chose not to because it went against my original intention of making something that would have spoken to me.  Dramatizations didn’t help me relate.  So I simplified and let the survivors and perpetrators just speak their truths.

How did you find the DV survivors you interviewed for the series?

NO MORE was a great resource, I’m not sure I could have made LoveStruck without them.  They connected me with various domestic violence organizations throughout the United States. Through these organizations I was connected to survivors who were ready and willing to share their experience publicly.  A small percentage of the interviewees I have a connection to personally.

Were you surprised by anything you heard or learned while you were making LoveStruck?

Yes.  No matter how much you prepare yourself to hear about violence enacted, it’s always a shock to hear the story unfold.  Statistically, I was shocked to learn that young adults and teens experience dating violence at a higher rate than older adults. I was also shocked to find a strong connection between children who have grown up around household dysfunction, and the kinds of obstacles that sets for them immediately and also later in life.  Mostly, I knew when I first approached the topic that it affects many people, but it grabs me at my core the sheer number of people living in or with the effects of domestic violence and who are completely unaware that they are.

How did you find the perpetrators you interviewed?

Defining who a perpetrator is can sometimes be clear cut, and at other times not.  For instance, I have one interviewee who defines himself as a perpetrator but, I have another interviewee who defines himself as a perpetrator at some points in his life and as a survivor at others.  I had gotten more than halfway through filming the documentary and was unable to secure a perpetrator to interview, so I had resigned myself to not being able to show that side of the story.  As you can imagine it’s difficult for a perpetrator to agree to an on camera interview.  But at the last minute those interviewees I just mentioned stepped forward and offered me an interview when they heard what I was filming through friends and family.

How did you feel about interviewing the perpetrators?

I felt about the same as I feel about interviewing anyone. It’s an opportunity for me to learn from and about someone’s challenges in life. I think it’s important to perpetrators and possible future perpetrators (male or female) to hear from someone who has a shared experience. That way they can learn from these stories and make the necessary changes in their life to have healthy relationships.

Watch the last episode of LoveStruck:

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Subscribe to LoveStruck’s YouTube Channel.

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Mass shootings, like the tragedy that occurred at Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015 and more recently, the Oregon shooting at Umpqua Community College on October 1, 2015, have become all too familiar in the United States. They bring waves of shock, sadness, and confusion, and often produce more questions than answers. How can someone be so angry? Could anyone have seen this coming? Why did he do it?

After every one of these terrible events, there are cries for reducing gun violence on both the state and federal levels, but all too often, the connection between gun violence and domestic violence fails to make national headlines. For example, few people are aware that the majority of mass shootings from 2009 to 2014 involved incidents of domestic violence in which the shooter killed a former or current intimate partner or family member.

The evidence for the lethal combination of guns and domestic violence is undeniable.  According to Everytown For Gun Safety, an organization working to reduce gun violence, 55% of women killed with guns are killed by an intimate partner or family member.  From 2001 through 2012, 6,410 women were murdered in the United States by an intimate partner using a gun.

Unfortunately, many dangerous domestic abusers have easy access to guns. Kirsten Moore, Director of Partnerships at Everytown, says that abusers who kill their former or current intimate partner or family member are able to obtain guns legally, due to outdated laws.

While federal law prohibits domestic abusers from purchasing or owning firearms, the law defines a “domestic partner” to a current or former spouse, live-in partner, or co-parent of a child. This does nothing to prevent perpetrators of dating violence and stalking from purchasing guns, and is especially problematic given that more U.S. women are killed by dating partners than by spouses.

The federal background check requirement that prevents domestic abusers from obtaining guns is not airtight either. In most states, only licensed firearms dealers are required to perform background checks, meaning that abusers can purchase guns from private sellers online or at gun shows without their names ever being run through the system.

According to Moore, closing these loopholes and enforcing existing laws, like those that require abusers to surrender guns they already own, would be the single most effective measure in the fight to reduce domestic violence homicides. “Research shows that in states the require background checks for all [hand]gun sales, over 40% fewer women are killed.”

Preventing dangerous domestic abusers from having easy access to guns would go a long way in reducing domestic violence homicides and saving thousands of lives each year.

During this important national conversation about gun violence, it’s time to learn more and speak out about the strong connection between gun violence and domestic violence.

To learn more about gun laws and domestic violence, visit The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety, and the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

This post was originally published on July 2, 2015. It was updated on October 5, 2015. 

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Ariel Zwang is the CEO of Safe Horizon, the largest victims services non-profit organization in the country, based in New York City. This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post

The last 12 months were a watershed for domestic violence. Famous athletes faced real scrutiny for the acts of violence they committed, survivors took control of the conversation with a viral hashtag, purple nails expanded the dialogue nationwide, and there were also incredible advocacy wins.

This October, for National Domestic Violence Awareness Month let’s look back at the many newsworthy and heart-wrenching domestic violence moments from this past year that informed, enraged, and inspired us all to bring greater awareness to this issue.

TOP 10

1. The horrific video of domestic violence seen around the world. 

TMZ released shocking footage of NFL star Ray Rice punching his then-fiancé Janay Palmer and knocking her out. As a result, the NFL faced harsh criticism for how they responded and the issue of domestic violence was thrust into a national spotlight.

2. Then came the hashtag that went viral: #WhyIStayed

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Photo courtesy of Big Mountain Data 

Domestic violence survivor Beverly Gooden took to Twitter to address what she considered were “very victim-blaming” comments towards Janay Rice. And she struck a chord with many survivors who shared their own very real reasons for staying in an abusive relationship. There were nearly 600,000 people explaining just why a victim might stay.

3. NYC approves much-needed housing subsidies for victims

After strong advocacy efforts from service providers, New York City launches a new program, LINC III, in the Fall of 2014 to move families from emergency shelter into their own apartments. With housing options limited for survivors, this was a much needed win.

4. The first Super Bowl ad to ever address domestic violence airs

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“I’d like to order a pizza for delivery.” A dispatcher quickly realizes that the caller is not ordering pizza but actually needs protection in her own home from an abuser who is still there. NO MORE created this unforgettable ad and the NFL donated the air time.

5. Miss America 2015 vows to “#PutTheNailinIt” to end domestic violence 

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Safe Horizon’s #PutTheNailinIt campaign reinforces a simple message – it’s time to end domestic violence. To launch the campaign, Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev, a survivor herself, took to the streets of NYC to encourage New Yorkers to take a stand against domestic violence. Since its launch, that campaign has reached more than 15 million unique viewers.

6. City Hall allocates $15 million in emergency funds to increase shelter capacity in NYC

Domestic violence is a key driver of homelessness in New York City, especially among women and children. This new initiative will increase shelter capacity by hundreds of beds.  Women, children as well as singles (without children) will now have a greater chance of accessing the safe, supportive, and confidential shelter they need.

7. Meredith Vieira comes out: reveals abusive relationship

Viewers of The Meredith Vieira Show were in for a surprise when in response to the Ray Rice headlines, she revealed that she too is a survivor. Her message? “Domestic violence … is really, really a complicated issue. It’s not so easy to just get away. You think it would be, but it’s not.”

8. New Yorkers are challenged: Be an #UpStander to domestic violence 

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NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYC’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence Commissioner Pierre-Louis, and others launched the city-wide #UpStander campaign to encourage New Yorkers to take a stand against domestic violence.  The campaign’s PSA aired on Taxi TV reaching countless riders who use this service every day.

9. Domestic violence takes center stage at the Grammys 

Before Katy Perry delivered an emotional rendition of “By The Grace of God,” she was introduced by Brooke Axtell, an artist who recounted her emotional story of domestic violence. Millions who watched the Grammys, including survivors, heard the message that help is available and that no one deserves abuse.

10. New campaign engages men in the effort to prevent violence against women

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“You taught him how to hit a baseball. But how much time have you spent teaching him…what not to hit?”  Futures Without Violence launched a provocative PSA called #TeachEarly highlighting the pivotal role that men play in preventing domestic and sexual violence.

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*in chronological order

11. MLB adopts comprehensive domestic violence policy in baseball

Major League Baseball and the players union reached an agreement on a new joint domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse policy. This new policy will hold players accountable and provide resources for the intervention and care of victims.

12. The Huffington Post reminds us that domestic violence is still an epidemic 

With 30,000 likes and nearly 8,000 shares on Facebook, this article provided 30 staggering stats that help us all to understand the severity of domestic violence and why it continues to be an urgent issue today.

13. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) institutes zero tolerance policy 

The WWE has been plagued by domestic violence allegations towards its talent in the past and after the backlash the NFL faced, WWE took a strong stance. “Upon arrest for [DV], our Superstars are immediately suspended, and should there be a conviction, that Superstar or Diva would be terminated,” stated Stephanie McMahon, WWE’s chief brand officer.

14. Italian PSA asks young boys to slap a girl. What!?

An Italian news company called Fanpage.it took to the streets of Italy to ask young boys, ages six to 11, a few questions. Then comes the controversial statement: slap the young girl in front of you. But not one obliges.  This PSA was featured on numerous news outlets around the world with many viewers inspired by the young boys’ reactions.

15. First ever Domestic Violence Response Team in public housing is established in NYC

The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence established a specialized team to conduct outreach at public housing developments and let the community know of the supports and resources available for victims and their families.  Since the launch, 400 New York City Housing residents were connected to services.

16. Cynthia Nixon explores abusive relationships in Shakespeare’s Othello 

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Part of the Public Theater’s Public Forum program, “An Evening with Desdemona & Emilia,” brought together actresses Cynthia Nixon, Uzo Aduba and others to explore themes of domestic violence that are still relevant today.

17. Safe Horizon explains the seven things that are proven to end domestic violence 

Often missing from the passionate discussion around domestic violence this year was an understanding of what is actually working to end this epidemic and how people can support real change. Based on research, these top seven interventions do work.

18. MSNBC’s Tamron Hall and Investigation Discovery INSPIRE A DIFFERENCE

Tamron Hall, who lost her sister to a tragic incident of domestic violence, participated in a live Twitter chat about the issue for Investigation Discovery’s (ID) campaign, INSPIRE A DIFFERENCE and Safe Horizon’s #PutTheNailinIt campaign. The Twitter chat used the hashtag #INSPIREADIFFERENCE and reached over three million people.

19. Advocates win fight to get priority status for victims in public housing

In early summer, The New York City Housing Authority offered 200 units designated the highest priority to domestic violence victims living in shelter. This was after advocacy efforts from service providers like Safe Horizon who called for more affordable and permanent housing for victims.

20. Kyra Sedgwick, Alan Cumming and NFL linebacker take a stand against domestic violence 

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A powerful 30-second PSA that features celebrities encouraging Americans to take a vow to end domestic violence is launched. Produced by Arnold Worldwide and Safe Horizon, the PSA has aired on Verizon FiOS, Investigation Discovery, PIX11 and to date was viewed more than 10,000 times on YouTube.

21. A NJ case raises concern: is there a high rate of violence within law enforcement families?

There was one case featured in the media that angered many:  ex-cop Philip Seidle murdered his ex-wife in broad daylight. There are special concerns when an abuser is also an officer. They have legal access to firearms and can often locate confidential shelters.

22. Police officers in California paint their nails purple to support victims

The Azusa Police Department in Los Angeles released a video of officers in uniform with their left ring fingernails painted purple as a sign of support for victims of domestic violence, joining Safe Horizon’s #PutTheNailinIt campaign. This light-hearted video sends a strong message: domestic violence won’t be tolerated by these officers.

23. New initiative addresses the children impacted by domestic violence

The NYPD and the Manhattan’s District Attorney’s Office partnered with Safe Horizon to launch a Child Trauma Response Team demonstration project. The 30-month project, informed by a national model of law enforcement and mental health collaboration, is designed to reduce the negative impact of children’s exposure to severe domestic violence.

24. One popular fitness blogger’s heartbreaking story goes viral

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In a video that was viewed more than nine million times on Facebook, Emma Murphy of Ireland publicize her heartbreaking story because she wanted to raise awareness for other victims.

25. Tragic case of domestic murder in same-sex relationship raises increased awareness 

Many media outlets, including many LGBT outlets, picked up the story of 20-year-old Bryan Canchola who allegedly murdered his boyfriend after a domestic dispute. This case brought national attention that domestic violence is also prevalent in same-sex relationships.

26. New bill would give domestic violence victims in California control of cellphone 

Advances in wireless technology now allow abusers to monitor their victims’ call records and sometimes their physical location if they are the holder of the account. This new bill would authorize courts to require wireless telephone service providers to transfer the telephone number and account responsibilities to the victim, so that abusers no longer have access to this sensitive information. Advocates are eagerly waiting the passage of the bill.

27. A Maryland cop provides a safe haven to a domestic violence survivor and her baby

The survivor and her one year old baby girl had nowhere else to go for the night, so Officer Ché Atkinson paid for their hotel room.  Atkinson’s actions touched many.

28. Dr. Dre apologizes to the ‘Women I’ve Hurt’

“Straight Outta Compton,” a biopic about Dr. Dre’s hip-hop group, N.W.A., opened to an impressive $56 million in ticket sales. Yet the film ignored his history of violence towards women. After public pressure, Dr. Dre issued an apology, “I apologize to the women I’ve hurt. I deeply regret what I did and know that it has forever impacted all of our lives.” But was it enough?

29. Sesame Street’s “Maria” comes forward with her heart wrenching story of domestic abuse

After 44 years on Sesame Street as “Maria,” Sonia Manzano officially retired from the show. But it’s her experience with domestic abuse that makes headlines. Her new memoir details watching her father beat her mother with a broken table leg. As Maria she wanted to “provide a little bit of solace through [Sesame Street] for children in [similar] situations.”

30. 5th Graders take their vow against domestic violence

One special elementary school in Kentucky has added the #PutTheNailinIt campaign to their curriculum. Local media LEX 18 covered this heart-warming story, showing it’s never too early to take a stand against domestic violence!

31. Safe Horizon raises $31,000 for victims of domestic violence

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Help us make this a reality and one of the 31 most powerful moments this year. Our goal is simple: let’s move victims of domestic violence from crisis to confidence by raising $31,000 by October 31st to provide them with the support they need: shelter, counseling, hotline services and other proven solutions to end domestic violence. Learn more and donate now at www.putthenailinit.org

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What people mean when they talk about Bystanders. It’s different than you think.

by·stand·er

/ˈbīˌstandər/

noun

A person who is present at an event or incident but does not take part.

If you have been paying attention to stories of sexual assault and domestic violence in the news recently (and it’s hard not to), you have likely heard the word “bystander” used with some frequency. From the campus-based It’s On Us campaign to demands for culture change in professional sports, calls for increased bystander engagement are everywhere. But what, or who, exactly is a bystander?

A bystander can mean different things in different situations.

A bystander is someone at a bar who sees a drunk person being taken advantage of. A bystander is someone who notices a family member’s bruises. A bystander is someone who hears screaming coming from a neighbor’s home.

According to the dictionary, a bystander is “someone who is present at an event or incident but does not take part.” People who work to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault are trying to change this definition.

From passive to active.

The Bystander Effect, popularized by social psychologists in the 1960s, refers to the decreased likelihood that a person will intervene or help in an emergency situation if there are other people present. The more witnesses are present, the less likely someone is to intervene. Seems strange, right?

Researchers attribute this phenomenon to a diffusion of responsibility, essentially people telling themselves that they don’t have to act because someone else will, and to behavioral influences, or people seeing other bystanders not intervening and emulating that behavior.  

These reasons often hold true when people fail to intervene in situations of domestic violence or sexual assault. In fact, they are at the core of the often invoked excuses, “It’s not my problem” and “It’s none of my business.” The Bystander Effect can explain why, when a 19 year-old woman was raped by multiple men on a crowded Florida beach during Spring Break last March, not one of the hundreds of onlookers intervened.

Sexual assault and domestic violence can also carry a stigma of shame; people wrongfully blame victims, which can further discourage bystander intervention.

The good news? It doesn’t have to be this way.

In the last thirty years, there have been two major bystander engagement initiatives that have succeeded in mobilizing everyday people to become part of the solution. The campaign to end drunk driving and the “See something, say something” campaign have been incredibly effective in reducing drunk driving deaths and motivating citizens to report suspicious activity to prevent terror attacks.

If public awareness campaigns–PSAs, subway ads, calls to action by public figures–can effectively convince bystanders  to take a away a drunk acquaintance’s keys or report a suspicious backpack on a train, then we can also convince bystanders to take an active role in safely preventing and interrupting sexual assault and domestic violence.  Ultimately, we also need to address the culture that permits it to happen.

Where do I begin?

There are many resources available online to help educate bystanders on how to intervene when they see domestic violence or sexual assault in progress. Read these, share them with your friends, and talk about them with your family. It is so much easier to intervene if you don’t have to do it alone.  Together we can end domestic violence and sexual assault.

For real-life scenarios, tips on intervening, and additional bystander resources, visit:

The NO MORE Bystander Guide to Parties

NO MORE: Taking Action to Stop Violence

 

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Did you know that students, especially young women, are at the highest risk of sexual assault during the first few months of college? This “red zone”–roughly from the beginning of the school year until Thanksgiving break–is especially unfortunate because many new freshmen are not yet aware of the resources available to survivors or of the options they have in reporting sexual assault.

With most of the nation’s colleges and universities back in session, now is the perfect time to get informed and start raising awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence on your campus. Here are four simple ways you can help make this school year a safe one–for everyone.

1) Find out who your school’s Title IX Coordinator is.

Title IX is an awesome bit of legislation that prohibits any educational institution receiving federal funding (including student loans) from discriminating against anyone on the basis of sex. Under Title IX, schools are legally mandated to respond and remedy hostile educational environments, including environments in which sexual assault, harassment, stalking, and dating violence take place. Every school must appoint a Title IX Coordinator to ensure that the school is compliant with Title IX and to coordinate the investigation and disciplinary process of sexual assault and violence complaints. Your school’s Title IX Coordinator can answer questions you have about these issues on campus, and fill you in on steps the school is taking to ensure safety for all students. To find out more about Title IX and the Clery Act (another good piece of campus safety legislation you should know about), visit KnowYourIX.org.

2) Learn about your campus resources.

Many colleges and universities have their own rape crisis hotlines, counseling centers, and other resources available to survivors of sexual assault and dating violence. These centers and hotlines often act as hubs of information where you can find out about other local, off-campus, resources. Most of this information will be available on your school’s website, but when in doubt, ask your RA or academic advisor.

3) Get involved with campus groups.

There are so many groups working to combat issues of sexual assault and dating violence on campus. Join them. Not only do these groups do amazing work, but their members are usually extremely smart, dedicated, and involved campus leaders. Not a bad group of people to get to know. Attend your school’s activity fair to learn about groups on your campus and check out these national organizations

SAFER: Students Active For Ending Rape On Campus

Run by a volunteer collective, SAFER facilitates student organizing through a comprehensive training manual; in-person workshops and trainings; free follow-up mentoring; our Campus Sexual Assault Policies Database; and a growing online resource library and network for student organizer

FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture

FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture is a creative activist collaboration to upset the culture of rape and promote a culture of consent. They also created and organized The Monument Quilt, a crowd-sourced collection of thousands of stories of rape and abuse.

End Rape On Campus (EROC)

End Rape on Campus provides free, direct support to campus activists who are filing federal complaints, like Title IX, to the Office for Civil Rights, and/or Clery complaints in order to hold colleges and universities accountable for their handling of sexual violations.

KNOW YOUR IX

Know Your IX fills the gap between the law on the books and survivors on the ground: they work to educate fellow students about their rights and empower them to take action for safety and equality on campus; and bring students’ voices, experiences, and concerns to policy.

It’s On Us

It’s On Us is the White House’s initiative to address sexual assault on college campuses. Take the pledge and download the Toolkit to start organizing It’s On Us events on your campus.  

 

4) Bring NO MORE to your campus.

Create a [your school] says NO MORE campaign. Host events throughout the year to raise awareness. Some ideas for events are below.

  • Use the “Awareness Event Toolkit” located in the NO MORE tool kit. Replicate the outlined event, scale it to your needs or simply use it as a source of inspiration to raise awareness in a comfortable and accessible way. Share the the NO MORE PSAs at the event, or create your own.
  • Create your own NO MORE products, t-shirts, pins for backpacks, NO MORE stickers (to put on water bottles), etc. You can order items from our online store or through NCADV’s shop (they offer discounts for bulk orders of 100 items or more), or use the image files and usage guidelines in our tool kit to make them yourself. You can share the image file along with the index and spectral data sheet (both of which are housed in the folder “usage guidelines”) with the vendor of your choice to have the NO MORE symbol branded on any product, or even it have it co-branded with another logo. Sell products to raise funds for a local domestic violence/ sexual assault organization and share helpful information about these issues.
  • Host a NO MORE day and create an event on Facebook and invite friends and community members change their profile pictures to the NO MORE symbol to raise awareness or add the NO MORE symbol to their existing profile picture using the NO MORE Twibbon – a great time to a NO MORE Day is during Dating Violence Awareness month (February), Sexual Assault Awareness month (April), and Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October).
  • Host a bake sale: for example, bake doughnuts and use blue frosting to mirror the NO MORE symbol and host a bake sale where the proceeds go to the local crisis center.  Take photos and share on social media with the hashtag #NOMORE and tag @NOMOREorg so we can share with our network as well!
  • Ask a local restaurant or movie theater to host a “NO MORE Night” or a “[your school] says NO MORE Night.” Ask them to donate a percentage of the proceeds to a local crisis center. Promote the event with fliers with the NO MORE symbol and the restaurant’s logo on it. Post fliers with statistics about how domestic violence and sexual assault are not talked about and ask people to say NO MORE silence and talk about it with their friends. Invite professors to start a conversation with their students by sharing a piece of information about domestic violence and sexual assault (statistics for women and men, places to get help, rates of under reporting, etc) at the beginning or end of class every day for a week leading up to NO MORE Day or NO MORE Night.
  • Start a NO MORE Photo competition, similar to the NO MORE Week campaign and ask your school to share why they say NO MORE and submit a photo with it. Find the “I SAY NO MORE BECAUSE” poster (which is located in the Tools to Say NO MORE).  Ask a local establishment to partner with you so you can provide a special discount for anyone who submits a photo (to generate more submissions) and tell students that they can show their submission to get the discount.

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On the morning of July 31, Karri Baker’s ex-boyfriend shot her in the head before taking his own life. The Germantown, Tennessee, couple had recently broken up, according to reports, and were moving out the house they had shared. Baker, who died in the hospital two days later, was 38. She left behind a daughter from a previous marriage.

While tragic, Karri’s story is hardly unique. Seventy-four percent of all murder-suicides in the U.S. have involved an intimate partner, and in those cases, 94% of the victims have been women.

On average, three or more women in the United States are killed every day by intimate partners. In many cases, the relationship may have already ended, as leaving a relationship is often the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence.

Germantown, a suburb of Memphis, may seem like an unlikely setting for such a gruesome crime. The city of 40,000 has low crime rates, and is by most accounts a safe, prosperous community. But Doug McGowen, director of the Memphis Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team and coordinator of the recently launched Memphis Says NO MORE campaign, knows that this sort of violence can happen anywhere, and to anyone.

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“Memphis is a city that is a good representation of the fact that it [domestic violence and sexual assault] happens everywhere,” McGowen says. “We have a high rate of poverty, but we also have very affluent areas. Demographically, it’s equally represented by black and white residents.”

In response to stories like Karri’s, as well as the discovery of thousands of untested rape kits, Memphis leaders, including the Mayor’s Office, launched the Memphis says NO MORE campaign this Spring, taking a multi-pronged approach to the issue. In addition to testing the backlogged rape kits, the campaign works to increase availability of victim services and promote awareness of the issues.

Local television stations have agreed to run the NO MORE PSAs, as well as several PSAs featuring Memphis community members and leaders.

This September, area colleges will convene at the University of Memphis to screen The Hunting Ground, a unflinching expose of sexual assault on college campuses, with the hope that each campus will follow up by launching its own NO MORE campaign.

McGowen says the goal of the campaign is to raise awareness while decreasing the number of untested rape kits and incidences of domestic violence and sexual assault. He hopes that the campaign’s multiple levels of engagement will reach every sphere of the Memphis community and compel them to join together in saying “NO MORE.”

 

Want to start your own local NO MORE campaign? Download the free NO MORE Toolkit and email info@nomore.org for details.

 

Need help? Visit our Resources Page for hotlines and lists of local shelters.

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Nationwide, college campuses are grappling with how to appropriately address the problem of sexual assault in their communities. From The Hunting Ground’s unflinching examination of sexual assault on college campuses to best-selling author Jon Krakauer’s investigation of rape on campus in Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town to California’s recently enacted “Yes Means Yes” law requiring college students to give affirmative consent before sex, 2015 has been a year filled with headlines about campus sexual assault. Greek Life has been the subject of much of the campus sexual assault debate but the discussion has predominately focused on the ways that fraternities contribute to rape culture. Why are sororities overlooked?  We spoke to Alexandra Robbins, an investigative reporter and author of five New York Times bestsellers, including Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities which she recently updated for 2015. Robbins answered our questions about sororities’ culpability in campus sexual assaults and how prospective pledges can stay safe.

Q: What led you to start focusing on sororities?

A: No one had ever written a fly-on-the-wall book about real sorority life before. I wanted to write a work of investigative journalism that felt like a fast-paced beach read, and I discovered that sororities had the kinds of fascinating stories to accomplish that goal.

Q: How did readers initially respond to your book?

A: Some sororities boycotted the book and penalized sisters caught reading it. While the vast majority of the feedback I received was positive, a small but extremely vocal, vicious minority of readers responded by trying to shame me online and personally attacking me merely for reporting on the topic in the first place.

Q: In your latest investigation of Pledged, what surprised you the most?

A: I was surprised that sororities seem to have gotten worse for sisters. The focus on image, girls’ appearances, dependence on fraternities for validation and group self-esteem – all of those things are emphasized even more than they were during my first investigation. These organizations could be such amazing forces for women, and yet some of them are too busy requiring their girls to wear Spanx and makeup and pushing them to spend large amounts of time in fraternity houses.

Q: Sexual violence is not a new issue to college campuses but how has sexual violence in the Greek community changed since your 2004 investigation?

A: What’s changed has been a slew of research showing that fraternities are significantly high-risk – and that sorority sisters are more likely to be victims of sexual violence than non-Greek college women. Given the evidence, it’s surprising that sororities haven’t changed their emphasis on fraternity interaction – and that schools continue to expand their Greek systems, even on campuses where rape in the Greek system specifically has been proven to be a staggering problem.

Q: In what ways could the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), the umbrella organization for national sororities, help address the issue of sexual assault & dating violence on campuses and better protect their members?

A: The NPC needs to overhaul its system, from the shallow recruitment process, which isn’t fair to sisters or potential recruits, to the emphasis on fraternities. If the NPC instead encouraged sisters to focus on the values on which these groups were founded – service, scholarship, leadership, and friendship – then there wouldn’t be as strong a reason to pressure them to couple with fraternity brothers. It’s pretty simple, really. An easy way to protect their members would be to quit sending them into the freaking fraternity houses over and over again.

Q: Do you have any advice for sorority members looking to create change? Incoming freshman who are considering pledging? Parents of prospective new sorority members?

A: Sororities are notoriously resistant to change. It’s hard to create change as a new member because you’re outnumbered by sisters who are higher in the pecking order. The hierarchical system in these organizations can be a problem – arbitrary and intimidating. But if enough sisters are willing to stand up for themselves, there’s a chance they can begin to alter the system, chapter by chapter.

My advice for incoming freshmen:

1) Understand that there is not a lot of adult supervision in these houses. At the sorority house I got kicked out of, the advisor knew about a major drug problem in the house but laughed it off and looked the other way.

2) Do your homework: Do the best you can to get to know the girls and the sorority before recruitment, because during rush, you’re not going to see the sorority as it really is.  At one pre-rush meeting I attended, the adviser and officers blatantly instructed sisters to lie to recruits to make them want to be in the house. That’s not unusual.

3) If the sorority you’re pledging makes you feel uncomfortable, leave.  There are some wonderful chapters out there, and as long as you get out of a sorority before initiation, you’re allowed to pledge another group.

My advice for parents:

These organizations are secretive by nature. One set of bylaws I acquired even said that any girl who talks about certain chapter business to any non-members (which would include parents) could be kicked out of the group. That’s insane. Parents should make sure to keep an open line of communication so that their daughters feel comfortable telling them about their sorority lives and so that parents can continue to guide their children through a program that can become dangerous.

alex robbins sororities pledged rape cultureAlexandra Robbins, who has written five New York Times bestsellers, is the author of Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities, which she has updated for 2015. An investigative reporter and the 2014 recipient of the John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism, Robbins’ books include The Overachievers, a New York Times Editors’ Choice and People magazine Critics’ Choice, and The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, which was voted Best Nonfiction Book of the Year in the Goodreads Choice Awards, the only people’s choice awards for books.

Robbins has written for several publications, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and The Washington Post. She has appeared on dozens of national television shows such as 60 Minutes, The Today Show, Oprah, The View, and The Colbert Report.

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Bill Cosby is having a very bad week. On July 24th, prominent Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus wrote an op-ed calling for President Obama to revoke Cosby’s Presidential Medal of Freedom. Taking issue with the President’s statement that there is no precedent for revoking the medal, Marcus urges Obama to follow in the footsteps of the U.S. Navy, which last year revoked Cosby’s honorary rank of chief petty officer. For his part, when asked about Cosby  on July 15th, the President stated, “If you give a woman, or a man for that matter, a drug and then you have sex without their consent, that’s rape.”

Perhaps the biggest blow to the Cosby team’s denial that the comedian is guilty of the mounting claims of sexual assault and rape against him is the testimony of 35 of the women who have accused him, published last night on New York Magazine’s website. The women, all of whom sat for photographs for the magazine, shared remarkably similar stories of being drugged and attacked by a man they thought they could trust. Many also discussed decades of feeling powerless to speak up, afraid of being called liars, or facing disbelief from friends and family.

In 2005, 14 women came forward and accused Cosby of rape after Andrea Constand, a former Temple University basketball star, pressed charges. In a deposition from that case, published earlier this month by the New York Times, Cosby admitted to preying on young women and using Quaaludes to get them to have sex with him. Still, the women who came forward at the time were largely met with skepticism and disbelief.

Barbara Bowman speaks to this in her account, “I felt like a prisoner; I felt I was kidnapped and hiding in plan sight […] who the hell would have believed me? Nobody, nobody.” And her fear of not being believed was a legitimate one – when she spoke to a lawyer soon after the alleged attacks, she was accused of lying. Her agent did nothing, either. Years later, Andrea Constand accused Cosby of rape and Bowman was asked to speak in court, but the case was quietly settled.

The accusers’ stories began getting traction in 2014, but only after comedian Hannibal Buress called Cosby a rapist in his stand-up routine, which went viral. This week, with their stories and photographs published together for the first time along with one empty chair, Cosby’s alleged victims and survivors everywhere are finally getting the attention and validation they deserve. As one of the women, the former model and actress Beverly Johnson, said in her testimony, “The part of it I wasn’t prepared for was the onslaught of women that have been assaulted and them telling me their story because I told mine.”

But there’s the #TheEmptyChair symbolizing the untold stories of real men and women who have also been sexually assaulted and suffered in silence, shame, and disbelief.

Why Accusations About Celebrities Aren’t Believed

Cosby isn’t the first icon to be accused of sexual assault or domestic violence, and yet the question persists: Why aren’t these accusers heard or given any credence—not just Cosby’s alleged victims, but the countless other men and women who have dared to challenge a celebrity?

The answer lies in the American conflation of celebrity and security, says Ulester Douglas, executive director of Men Stopping Violence. “We are a celebrity culture. Seeing someone we idolize, revere, and idealize being accused of horrific crimes makes us wonder: Who are we? It makes us realize that our own families could be capable of it, too,” he says. It’s unsettling and even terrifying to associate an idol with evil, particularly because there are so many celebrities who are good people, capable of powerful, positive influence.

Dissonance Perpetuates Silence

David Adams is a psychologist and co-director of Emerge, a Boston-based abusers’ intervention and counseling program. He sees a difference in how we respond to a stereotypical criminal and a celebrity accused of bad behavior due to our preconceptions about abusers, who can be male or female. “We tend to think of an abuser as someone who is easily detectable: someone who is crude, sexist, and boorish. A quarter of men who abuse women do fit this stereotype, and since that’s a substantial subgroup, we tend to spot those guys and not the ones who are more likable. If we don’t know what to do with bad information about someone we adore, it creates dissonance, and we sometimes choose to disbelieve or to ignore it,” he says.

“When we see someone likable accused of a crime, we have a choice to believe something bad about them or to discount it because it doesn’t fit our experience. In some ways it’s easier to do that than to think, oh God, the world really is unknowable—I might as well give up on knowing people,” he says. “If we don’t know what to do with information about someone we worship, we put it aside.”

Why Celebrities Feel Immune

Of course, Cosby is hardly the first famous person to be accused of rape or assault. When we think about any celebrity facing serious allegations, though, it’s difficult to believe that an image-conscious idol would be willing to engage in hugely risky behavior, throwing away the very image they need. What’s going through their mind?

“Any consequence is overridden by the high of the conquest,” Douglas says. And, on a purely logistical level, “They do it because they can. They truly think they can get away with it, based on the very fact that they have a certain image. They will be believed; the accusers will be laughed out of the room.”

Absorbing The Narcissism Factor

In many celebrity cases, narcissism also plays a starring role. “A hallmark of narcissism is exceptionality. You literally think you will not get caught. This personality takes chances, acts reckless, and even associates the behavior with success, because they’ve always been rewarded,” Adams says.

“We think narcissists are people nobody would like. But, in fact, they’re quite charismatic, with good social and image-maintenance skills”— which often allow them to get away with bad behavior, even more so when there’s a PR team on call. Narcissists are also skilled at compartmentalization, Adams says, and they choose to focus on the “part of their life that everybody adores. They don’t focus on other parts of their lives, and if they do something wrong, they think, ‘Gee, everybody loves me. What’s the problem?’” he says. “It’s a lack of character development.”

“Narcissists can engage in all sorts of psychological gymnastics not to feel empathy,” says Douglas.

The Changing Tide

Adams says that it’s easy to categorize personalities as good versus bad. “We don’t think good and evil can co-exist in the same person,” he says. “But look at the Mafia—these guys who do horrible things but are notoriously good to their mothers. And along comes a show like The Sopranos to paint them in a more nuanced light. There’s now less focus on ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys,’” he says. Understanding the complexities of personalities—refusing to glorify a celebrity as all good, all the time—could help to close the dissonance gap.

“We can also go a long way toward preventing male sexual and domestic violence against women by stopping the pervasive and pernicious victim-blaming,” Douglas says. “The media, for example, should quit asking the toxic, ‘Why did you go back to your abuser?’ and ‘Why didn’t you leave?’ A reporter could say instead, ‘As you know, there are some who question your credibility because of some of the choices you made. What, if anything, would you want to say to them?’ That is respectful journalism. The [accuser] should never be made to feel like she has to justify the choices she made or makes.”

Finally, in his own work with Men Stopping Violence, Douglas sees firsthand the power of healing through sharing. “I see survivors who are finding peace through coming forward and telling their stories. One of the most powerful things that survivors can do is tell their own stories, on their own terms,” he says.

Portions of this post were originally published on November 19, 2014.

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The summer is heating up! So should your support for the amazing organizations working to end domestic violence and sexual assault! Here are eight ways to stay involved and show your support for the NO MORE mission this summer…

Help make the first-ever NO MORE license plate a reality.

Order the new CA says NO MORE license plate! California is the first state in the nation to establish a specialized NO MORE license plate to fund local programs in the fight against domestic violence and sexual assault. Plus, they look awesome. Order your specialty license plate here!

Order your CA says NO MORE license plate

Host a summer bake sale.

Host a bake sale/lemonade stand for your local service provider. Bake doughnuts and use blue frosting to mirror the NO MORE symbol, or serve up refreshing NO MORE blue raspberry lemonade to beat the heat. Donate the proceeds go to a local crisis center or organization.  Download free signage in our free Toolkit. Take photos and share on social media with the hashtag #NOMORE and tag @NOMOREorg so we can share with our network as well!

Join us at an event.

Register for the annual National Sexual Assault Conference in Washington D.C., August 31 – September 2. Check out the workshops for victim advocates and other professionals in the field here.NoMore Summit Postcard5Front-HQ-1

Join NWCAVE and YWCA Clark County for their NO MORE Summit 2017 in Vancouver, WA! The Anti-Violence Summit will be held January 12 & 13, 2017 at the Hilton Vancouver Hotel and will include speakers including advocate, Brenda Tracy. Register here!

To find more events near you, click here.

Show us your NO MORE & NO MÁS!

Where you are this summer sharing #NOMORE this summer? Tag @NOMOREorg and @WeSayNoMas and include your city and state your so we can give you a shoutout!

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A photo posted by @madebyhayz on

Make a statement.Untitled design

You can join the global fun of soccer this summer with the We Say NO MÁS soccer ball or get a baseball hat, some backpack pins, a tote bag, a tank and more at the NO MORE store!  Or, you can use the image files and usage guidelines in our Tool Kit to make them yourself!

SHOP NO MORE

 

Help Safe Horizon #PutTheNailinIt by painting your ring SUMMER BLOG inline graphicfingernails purple!

Join Safe Horizon, the largest victim services organization in the country, and #PutTheNailinIt! Make a donation of any size to to Safe Horizon and paint your ring fingernails purple. Share it on social media with the hashtag #PutTheNailinIt to inspire your network of friends to do the same. And make sure you check out the awesome #PutTheNailinIt PSA featuring celebrities like Kyra Sedgewick and Alan Cumming.

Have more ideas for our Summer Guide? Email info@nomore.org so we can expand our Guide!

 

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