For as long as I can remember, I have been a keeper of stories.

Often, in a waiting room, a dentist’s chair, on a plane, or in a classroom, a stranger will open up to me and share personal stories, some of which are about deeply painful traumatic experiences.  It’s a role I treasure and have willingly taken on throughout my life beyond those planes and waiting rooms, first as a sexual assault crisis counselor and, since 2013, through starting Surviving in Numbers, an organization that helps domestic and sexual violence survivors safely share their stories. In turn, I’ve often related to myself as responsible to hold others’ traumas, but kept my own hidden.

After I was sexually assaulted during the fall of my senior year of high school, this shifted; I felt voiceless, scared, powerless, and I needed someone to hear and hold my story. I turned to only a few friends and my brother for support. Eventually, everyone I told about my perpetrator had their own bad experience with him: he’d assaulted a different friend of theirs, he’d harassed someone they knew, or they’d been bullied by him themselves. This horrifying repeat-offender context meant I was lucky enough to be automatically believed.

I call it lucky because this is not the experience for most survivors: while an estimated 60-80% of survivors never report their assaults to law enforcement, more painful to sit with is that many survivors never tell anyone in their lives, for fear of being disbelieved, shamed, treated differently, or retaliated against by their assailant or assailant’s friends.

Young survivors in particular often struggle with this silence, as well as with peers or others in their lives who don’t know how to respond to disclosures in a positive way, in part because culturally, we often avoid discussing the prevalence of sexual violence among teens. Despite our hesitance to address it, the fact remains: 44% of sexual violence victims are under the age of 18, and 1 in 3 teens has been physically, emotionally or sexually abused by a dating partner. Even if we already think we’re getting it right, we can always do a better job of supporting these teens — but how?

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1) You’re not alone

Many people (teens, adults) don’t realize how often this happens, and may then feel isolated in their experience. Over the past 2 years, I’ve taught over 1,000 high school students on basic facts about sexual violence, debunking common myths about violence, story-sharing, how to support peers who disclose, how to identify supportive people they could disclose to, and how to step in effectively if they witness violence (harassment to assault).

A common response I often hear after these workshops is, “Before you came in to speak, I didn’t know of anyone else who’d been sexually assaulted.” If young people feel alone in their experience, they often feel ashamed and worry no one else will understand. Don’t wait until you hear someone disclose an assault to start talking about sexual violence — talking about it openly and early helps teens understand that violence shouldn’t be ignored, and is never a survivor’s fault.

2) I believe you

While the needs of survivors are intricate and all survivors have different needs, the best thing you can do for any survivor who discloses their story is to let them know you believe them and will support them in any way they need. We often worry about needing to find the perfect thing to say to a survivor, but sometimes, the perfect thing is as simple as letting them know you believe them. If we want survivors to share their stories, they need to know they’ll be safe doing so. If they aren’t believed, it can be devastating: as one survivor shared, “The first person I told asked me, ‘Why did you allow it to happen?’ which hurt just as bad.”

3) It is absolutely not your fault

One of the toughest pieces of workshops I run involves debunking myths around sexual violence. These myths are so deeply ingrained in our culture that we may not even realize we believe them, and they are incredibly harmful to victims and to all of us. When we live in a culture where people believe and don’t challenge the idea that what someone is wearing can “provoke” someone to assault them, or that waiting to report an assault means that person is making it up, we all suffer.

In class, I provide a safe space to openly discuss these ideas so that we can work through them together; without addressing the myths, those teens who unknowingly or knowingly blame victims go on to become adults who also blame victims. “Raise your hand if you believe someone can be ‘asking’ to be assaulted,” I’ll pose to the class. More than once, a student has raised their hand, and it’s a terrible moment to see a piece of victim-blaming culture already instilled in someone so young. However, more than once, another student’s hand has gone up after: “No one is ever asking for it.” “Just because someone wears something, doesn’t mean they want to have sex.”

In order to change bad cultural norms, we must stop accepting them: whether you’re a young person or an adult, it’s crucial for people of any age to be challenged on these harmful ideas.

4) I will support whatever choice you make

We may feel very strongly about what a survivor, especially a teen survivor, should do after disclosing being assaulted. Commonly, these “should”s are around reporting: a survivor should go to the police, to the hospital, to their parents, or to a counselor.  That choice must be the survivor’s. Not every survivor ever wants to report or take any kind of action, and that is perfectly fine.

Survivors have very valid reasons for not wanting to report, especially to law enforcement, who are part of a legal system where punishment rates are low in a system that is not designed to support survivors. Some survivors may not want to have their assailants punished, may be afraid of their assailant retaliating against them and hurting them further, and some survivors may just want to move on and not be forced to re-tell and re-visit their story dozens of times in a precinct or courtroom. Whatever decision a survivor makes is truly okay, and we need to actively let survivors know we will support whatever choice they make.

Survivors deserve all the love and care we can provide them. We don’t have to be superheroes – by holding a survivor’s story, listening to what a survivor wants and showing a survivor we support them unconditionally, we can make an enormous difference.

AliAli Safran is the Founding Director of Surviving in Numbers, a non-profit serving survivors of sexual and domestic violence through story-sharing and prevention education.

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Sexual assault and domestic violence aren’t easy to talk about.

So how can we get folks talking about these issues to drive more awareness and break down the barriers of stigma, silence and shame that keep people from seeking help and taking action before problems arise?

A number of NO MORE supporters have come up with same solution: instead of talking about sexual assault and domestic violence, sing about it.

Music is a unique medium that allows both artists and listeners to connect with difficult topics, like sexual assault and domestic violence, in very personal ways, and many people have written to us to share particular songs that have helped and inspired them.

NO MORE is proud to partner with the heavy metal supergroup HELLYEAH, which released its single “Hush” during NO MORE Week. Frontman Chad Grey wrote “Hush” about his experience growing up in a home with domestic violence, and the chilling song reminds listeners that they “are not alone.”

During the 2015 South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, organizers of the Spontaneous Speakeasy combined the power of music and NO MORE’s message to raise funds for the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Safe Place. The daylong “Party With a Purpose” featured sets from seven artists, including JJ Essen, whose song “The Door” tells the story of his reaction and rage when hearing about a family member’s struggle with domestic violence.

Philip Nelson, an organizer of the event along with Curse Mackey, also performed his song “Up High” inspired by a friend’s words as she reached out for help in the wake of an abusive marriage. To Nelson, writing songs about these issues seems natural. “Music evokes emotion” he says. “Because Domestic Violence and sexual assault are such personal issues, it only makes sense that music would be an important way for these stories to be told and shared.”

Katy Perry’s moving rendition of “By the Grace of God” at the 2015 Grammy’s, following a recorded call to action by President Obama and a powerful poem by survivor and activist Brooke Axtell, demonstrated the emerging importance of music in raising awareness around domestic violence and sexual assault.

Hearing your story in a song is a powerful way to remind those who have been isolated physically and emotionally that there are people out there who can relate to and care about them.

This Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), we are excited to share some of the moving and downright catchy songs that people have shared with NO MORE. (Warning: Some of the lyrics in the songs and videos may be triggering to survivors.)

“Silenced” by Mersi Stone

Family music duo and NO MORE Ambassadors Kelsi and Kori Jean Olsen are on a mission to raise awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault.

“Til It Happens To You” by Lady Gaga

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“The Door” by JJ Essen

“Hush” by HELLYEAH

“No More” by Middle Class Rut

“Leaving You Behind” by Emii

“Tears in Your Eyes Remix” by ASHES the Chosen

“No More” by Denise Latray

“Who Will Cry (For the Little Girl)?” by Schawayna Raie

“Stop Violence Against Women–Now!” by Cardell Anthony

“Lies and Bruises” by Ryan Daniel

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“No More” by Deshai Williams

These are just a few of the many artists nationwide speaking out about these important issues and lending their voices to say #NOMORE to domestic violence and sexual assault. What are we missing on this list? We want to hear the songs that move you! Please share your favorites on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #NOMORE, and we will add them to our Music That Moves Us YouTube Playlist.

Need help?

To get help or information on domestic violence services, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or live chat.

For dating abuse help and resources, visit loveisrespect.org, call 1-866-331-9474, or text “loveis” to 22522.

For sexual assault counseling and services, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or live chat.

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An estimated 13% of the U.S. population is Deaf or hard of hearing, yet support systems for Deaf survivors are sorely lacking.

NO MORE is excited to present our latest blog piece written by Morgane and Ryan, student activists from Gallaudet University. NO MORE is proud to use our blog to give a voice to victims and survivors from all communities. Please share this story and help us activate your communities to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

Our names are Morgane Vincent and Ryan Klock, and we’re done being silent.

Silence is our world. We communicate visually rather than verbally through American Sign Language. For Deaf women and men, the risk of domestic violence and sexual assault is painfully high. Deaf and hard of hearing individuals are 150% more likely to be victims of assault, abuse and bullying in their lifetime. Domestic violence impacts one out of every two Deaf women, and one out of every six Deaf men.

We’re proud of our Deaf identity, but for some it is a reason to overlook us. While the Deaf community is assumed to be relatively small, individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing make up 13% of the U.S. population, according to recent estimates. Yet, the support system for Deaf survivors is lacking. The few hotlines available for Deaf people are only operated between 9 am and 5 pm, Monday through Friday, but violence does not take a break after business hours or on weekends. Shelters and crisis centers lack adequate resources for Deaf individuals. Communication with a sexual assault and domestic violence resources is a strenuous process if one does not have a videophone, or access to on-call interpreters. In an emergency room setting, it generally takes up to 5 hours for a Deaf patient to receive an interpreter, and by then the damage and severity of the abuse could have increased. Often we stay with our abuser because the communication in the relationship is better than no communication at all. At least we know what to expect.quote4_edited-1

Our school, Gallaudet University, is the only Deaf University in the world. While we are proud of what the Gallaudet offers to our community, the university also harbors a dark secret. Rates of sexual assault and domestic violence are higher at Gallaudet than that any other university or college in DC, according to a Washington Post analysis. While we appreciate that the university has taken measures to address these issues, such as offering Greendot training, workshops and on-site training for faculty and students, we still have a long way to go.

Gallaudet is not unique among universities struggling to confront sexual assault and domestic violence, yet the Deaf experience is unique and presents a unique set of challenges. The increased risk of experiencing violence and abuse coupled with the lack of services tailored to meet the needs of Deaf survivors is something we as a society need to address–not just the deaf community . The reporting process through campus security too often results in “sweeping” the issue under the rug, and seeking help is even harder for Deaf students at non-Deaf universities, where there are fewer accommodations. This is why so many Deaf students either don’t report sexual assault altogether or are forced to go off campus to the emergency room rather than trust their universities to implement justice and put survivors first. This option is no picnic either. It is tough enough to have to tell a doctor (a stranger) about the abuse and/or assault, but imagine having to rely on an interpreter (also a stranger) to tell your story rather than being able to tell it yourself.

The thing is, it’s our story, our wounds that need to be healed, our words that need to be understood, and our voices that need to be heard. Rather than asking what universities can do for us, we need to take a stand and change how domestic violence and sexual assault are reported and the procedures used on campuses. It’s on us to fix and change a broken system, to improve reporting processes, to increase sensitivity training for campus security officers, and to inform and educate our peers. No more silencing Deaf voices. We need to open our eyes to abuse in the Deaf community.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger please call emergency services like 911. In the current 911 system, Deaf and hard of hearing callers must use a teletypewriter (TTY) text telephone device or a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) to contact 911 in an emergency.

Other resources for the Deaf or hard of hearing individuals:

  • To get help or more information on domestic violence services, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Advocates who are Deaf are available by video phone at 1-855-812-1001 (Monday to Friday 9AM-5PM), by instant messenger (“DeafHotline”)  and by email deafhelp@thehotline.org.  Hearing advocates are available 24/7 by phone at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) / 1-800-787-3224 (for TTY).
  • For sexual assault counseling and services, you can chat with the National Sexual Assault Hotline here.
  • For Gallaudet students, the Deaf Abused Women’s Service (DAWN) provides free on-campus support and advocacy services. Find more information here.

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With NO MORE Week in the rearview mirror (and what a wonderful week it was!), the team at NO MORE is already looking forward to April. Warmer weather is nice, but Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is the main event. Let’s get everyone excited about a concentrated month of activism around such a critical issue.

Military bases, community centers, churches, student groups, and other organizations across the country will host events like Take Back the Night, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, and Denim Day to raise awareness about the devastating impact of sexual assault on almost every community in this country.

SAAM has been observed to varying degrees for decades, but it was not officially designated as a national awareness month until 2001. Now in its fourteenth year, SAAM activism has been instrumental in bringing this once-hidden issue to the forefront of public discussion. We are now all too familiar with the statistics: 1 in 5 women is a survivor of rape, and 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lives (CDC). In recent months, stories of sexual assault on college campuses like UVA and Columbia University, in the military, and by celebrities and professional sports players have dominated headlines. So now that awareness about sexual assault has reached an all-time high, what’s next for SAAM?

“When the community first started organizing, the real square one need was to communicate to people that sexual assault happens, and it happens in their communities,” says Laura Palumbo, Prevention Campaign Specialist at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. “Over time that focus has shifted from awareness to prevention. Now we’re telling people how they can be part of the solution.”

Laura is straightforward: now that we know about the problem, let’s come together to fix it. But activating an ever-expanding base of people to be part of the solution will require huge collective effort. Despite our awareness initiatives, sexual assault still isn’t easy to talk about. For survivors, the subject can be laden with feelings of shame, guilt, and fear, and for others, it can be hard to talk about an issue that is at once so personal and so pervasive.

This April, we need to come together to convince people to be part of the solution. So how do we do that? Check out the NSVRC SAAM website for downloadable tools, suggestions and information in activating your communities and networks.

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Need some ideas to get started?
April 7th is the SAAM Day of Action and a great day to kick off talking about these issues on social media. If you’re a parent, teacher or mentor, get involved with changing the culture around rape by talking to youth in your life, both boys and girls, about sexual assault and healthy relationships; not simply coaching our daughters to avoid potentially dangerous situations. If you’re attending college, it means holding universities accountable for their obligations to ensure that all students can complete their educations without fearing for their health and safety. Culture change also means supporting members of the military who speak out about sexual assault and harassment. It means creating a culture wherein all survivors feel that their voices are validated, and not scrutinized or silenced.

SAAM presents all of us with a wonderful opportunity to engage new voices, to invite people—people who may never have been a part of this movement—to join us in stopping sexual assault, rape and abuse. After all, sexual assault is not just a women’s issue and it’s not simply a survivor’s issue. It’s everyone’s issue and the solution lies in all of us.

Join us this SAAM. Visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center blog for more ideas and find out from your state sexual assault programs about activities in your area.

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So many brave men and women have opened up to NO MORE to share personal stories in honor of NO MORE Week, going on now. All told, more than 5,000 of you have told the world why you say NO MORE, and we’re moved by your courage and strength.

Here are just a few powerful stories from survivors. To support a friend or to share your own experience, visit NO MORE.

One Voice Can Make a Difference

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Peace Through Sharing

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Survivors Helping Survivors

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 Men Speaking Out

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If you need help, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) or domesticshelters.org, the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-HOPE), 1in6, and Break the Cycle.

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It’s NO MORE Week 2015! Anyone can join our weeklong event to raise awareness and galvanize communities to confront sexual assault and domestic violence year-round. Here’s a list of events happening nationwide from March 8-14 that you can get involved in right away, from anywhere at all. Get ready to say NO MORE.

Tune In

USA Network #NOMOREexcuses Marathon

The USA Network and the Joyful Heart Foundation, founded by “Law & Order: SVU” star Mariska Hargitay, kick off NO MORE Week on March 8 with a #NOMOREexcuses Marathon of “Law & Order: SVU.” What excuses won’t you tolerate anymore? Join the discussion on Twitter with hashtag #NOMOREexcuses.

The Hunting Ground

Join NO MORE Ambassador AnnaLynne McCord and Break the Cycle for a special screening of The Hunting Ground during NO MORE Week in Los Angeles. The new documentary exposing the prevalence of sexual assaults on U.S. college campuses is already getting amazing buzz. Additional NO MORE Week screenings are in Boston, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Berkeley, California. Buy your tickets here!

LoveStruck

“LoveStruck,” a docu-series exploring domestic violence from all sides, releases video teasers on YouTube throughout the week. The full series, created by survivor and filmmaker Hannelore Williams debuts in October 2015. Get regular updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Discovery I.D. #NOMOREWeek Programming

As a finale to week, on Saturday, March 14 starting at 9 am ET, Investigation Discovery is honoring NO MORE Week with dedicated programming that addresses domestic violence and sexual assault, including a Twitter Q&A with survivors and advocates beginning at 10 AM ET. Check your local listings at IDChannelFinder.com and join the discussion on Twitter with @DiscoveryID and @NOMOREorg by following the hashtags #InspireADifference and #NOMOREweek.

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Speak Out

Looking for the quickest way to get involved? Show your commitment to ending domestic violence and sexual assault by adding the NO MORE symbol to social media profile images, personalize a “NO MORE ______” sign and share a photo on social media, wear the symbol, or just start a conversation with friends and family about healthy relationships.

Be a partSMuIota brothers of our dozens of events and activities across America. Check out all of our NO MORE Week events here and it’s not too late to use our Guide to plan your own!mariska nfl players no more logo

Last but not least, don’t forget to join the conversation on social media by following NO MORE on Twitter (@NOMOREorg) Facebook (NOMORE.org) and Instagram (@NOMOREorg) using the #NOMOREWeek hashtag and to say NO MORE all year long using our toolkit.

 

To host your own in March and beyond or add an event to the map, visit NO MORE WEEK 2015.

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The gripping film chronicles college sexual assault survivors’ struggle for justice.

The Hunting Ground opens in select theaters this weekend. With this unflinching expose, sexual assault on college campuses gets the film treatment it deserves—a piercing, in-depth, journalistic look at the terror so many survivors face when coming forward.

It’s the first time that campus assault has been confronted this way on film. The Hunting Ground blends raw footage with first-person testimonies, following real survivors and their families as they cope with retaliation, harassment, pushback and university efforts to downplay and deny assaults.

It introduces America to two authentic heroes: survivors Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, who developed the strategy of using Title IX legislation to fight back.

Filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering are known for their powerful chronicles of sexual assault: They recently helmed Oscar-nominated The Invisible War, a searing investigation into the rape epidemic within the U.S. military. That film won the Audience Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, the 2012 Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary, and the 2014 Emmy Award for Best Documentary and Outstanding Investigative Journalism.

Ziering recently explained the impetus for the movie to Vice: “It’s a problem of people not understanding. Certainly on campuses. The common conception right now, even with all the press, is he said, she said. It’s ‘sloppy sex,’ it’s ‘hookups gone bad.’ I think our film radically shifts the perspective and says, ‘Actually, no. It’s a highly calculated, premeditated crime.’”

Activists like Ali Safran are hailing the The Hunting Ground as a game-changer, not only as validation for survivors but also as an educational tool for the public. Safran, a rape crisis counselor, runs Surviving in Numbers, a nonprofit awareness campaign that lets sexual and domestic violence survivors share their stories anonymously, which she turns into posters on college campuses.

“The majority of the public doesn’t understand why colleges handle rape cases. They assume the police should handle them, if things are so bad—but schools can support students in a way that police can’t. Colleges can help a survivor change dorms or classes,” she explains.

The campus angle also crystallizes the society’s interpretation of assault across ages and cultures. “Campuses are microcosms of our larger society and sexual assault’s perception,” she says. “I hope that through this film people have a better understanding that not all survivors look a certain way, I hope that schools take notice, and I hope that survivors remember they deserve safety and justice. The issue is so pervasive that people might not actively think about it.”

With The Hunting Ground, they will. The film premieres in select cities nationwide; visit The Hunting Ground online to find movie times in your area and watch the trailer below:

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Visit NO MORE and download the free NO MORE toolkit to learn how you can spread awareness and support survivors on campus, especially during NO MORE WEEK, March 8-14, 2015.

 

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Say NO MORE March 8-14

It’s NO MORE’s birthday! NO MORE Week happens March 8-14, 2015. It’s a national effort to engage every individual, organization, or corporation to say NO MORE to domestic violence and sexual assault and to make domestic violence and sexual assault awareness and prevention a priority year-round.

Organizations across the country have joined us and you can, too!

Here’s a sampling of powerful NO MORE Week events happening nationwide:

In New Hampshire, New Beginnings crisis line and shelter holds a fantastic teen writing contest. Local teenagers ages 13 through 18 can write a 600-word essay or draw an original graphic novella to share why and how they say NO MORE. Winners are announced during NO MORE Week. We can’t wait to see what they come up with.

In Wisconsin, GoldenHouse shelter hosts a NO MORE fundraiser with Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt and Green Bay Packers former wide receiver Bill Schroeder, with photo ops and autographs.Photo Apr 16, 12 49 09 PM

NO MORE is partnering with the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence partners to host an online webinar for a “basic training” for military personnel and civilian partners. We’ll talk about the history of NO MORE and ways to use NO MORE to increase domestic violence and sexual assault awareness on military bases. Click here to register for the free online conference on March 10 at 3p.m. EST.

In Florida, a determined group of athletes will be starting their 78-day, cross-country journey on roller skates to raise awareness and funds to stop domestic violence and sexual assault. Decked in NO MORE shirts, the States On Skates athletes will roller skate a total of 2,823 miles, from Coca Beach, Florida to Santa Monica, California.

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Other places support NO MORE year-round. In Rhode Island, the RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence has used our symbol for three years to spread awareness through NOMORERI.org. Executive Director Deb Debare says that “the public response has been phenomenal.” Go Rhode Island!

Other states have joined with NO MORE for ongoing campaigns too. Hawai’i will launch its own NO MORE campaign to coincide with NO MORE Week. If you’re in New Hampshire or Pennsylvania, visit their localized NO MORE websites for statewide resources and ways to get involved. And if you’re in California, visit the California Says NO MORE website for ways to show support and to shop for NO MORE gear. Wear your support to say NO MORE!

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This is just a snapshot of the many places all over the country that will say NO MORE in March. To see more events, check out the #NOMOREweek map below.

To host your own in March and beyond or add an event to the map, visit NO MORE WEEK 2015.

 

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Say NO MORE with Break the Cycle

NO MORE teams up with partner groups to spotlight our cause throughout the year, and February is crucial for prevention: Teen Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Break the Cycle’s new CEO Amy Sanchez says that the highest rate of victimization for abuse and sexual assault occurs between the ages of 16 and 24. Break the Cycle, which since NO MORE’s inception has served on our Executive Committee, is the leading national nonprofit that empowers this group through education and outreach. Their prevention programs work to ensure that these relationships are healthy.

NO MORE works with Break the Cycle to boost awareness around teen sexual assault and violence. Amy Sanchez talked to us about why their work with NO MORE is so important—for giving these young survivors visibility and a voice.

Why is Break the Cycle’s work so important?

Adults often see young people as the future–but their voice isn’t often considered as being as pertinent as other voices at the table. But the highest rate of victimization is between 16 and 24. The youth voice in this conversation is more than just an add-on—it drives the national conversation about ending domestic violence and sexual assault. This is a key opportunity. In 2012, we established a partnership with the National Domestic Violence Hotline called Love is Respect, where a teenager who needs help can chat, call, or text for live help, figure out whether their relationship is abusive, learn how to help a friend and more.

What do teens cope with now that they didn’t 20 years ago?

Social media. On the plus side, twenty years ago, if a young person was experiencing violence, they could only call a hotline. Now they have more options. This openness can be a good way to get support. But the way in which youth interacts is different. When I was young, I talked to my boyfriend on our landline hooked to the wall. Now, my teenagers use text or Snapchat. In high school, if I did something I regretted, maybe my best friend knew. Now the whole world can know about it. It’s riskier. But social media also engages people. There’s a balance.

What are your thoughts about NO MORE, including the Super Bowl publicity and some of the resulting criticism?

NO MORE represents a huge opportunity to engage people who have not been engaged before. It’s a unifying symbol. We needed the brand. People recognize brands. I live in rural Wisconsin. All of my friends who know nothing about domestic violence and sexual assault and never talk about it now recognize it—because they watch football! Through NO MORE, we’re reaching people who have never been reached before. We’re engaging men. They are learning what these issues are, and we’re showing people opportunities for change. It’s extremely moving. A group of people can be watching football, screaming, then a NO MORE ad comes on and everybody’s quiet. These ads show the direct impact on people’s lives. We’ve been missing this.

TAKE ACTION: TEEN DATING VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH AND NO MORE WEEK 2015!

Love has many definitions, but abuse isn’t one of them.

To get involved in Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, visit Love Is Respect. On February 10, join Wear Orange 4 Love by getting as many people as you can to wear something orange to spread awareness. Wear whatever you can think of, tell people why you’re doing it, and post updates on Twitter using #orange4Love #RespectWeek2015 and on Facebook.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day by helping your friends learn about healthy relationships. Sign up to distribute the National Respect Announcement on February 13.

NO MORE celebrates its second birthday in March—learn even more ways to spread the word during NO MORE Week, support your friends, get involved, and say NO MORE here.

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Prosecutor Kym Worthy brings justice to survivors at last.

In 2009, 11,000 untested rape kits were unearthed in a Detroit police warehouse, containing the DNA of perpetrators who could have been identified and linked to other crimes. Countless such kits sit untested nationwide. Trailblazing Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy took action and made the Michigan kits a priority. Through groundbreaking partnerships and legislation, she’s tackling the backlog to finally test the old kits and bring long overdue justice to survivors.

For Worthy, the issue is professional and personal: She’s also a survivor of sexual assault. She talked to NO MORE about her crusade.

WHY IS THIS BACKLOG ISSUE SO SIGNIFICANT?

The criminal justice system loses credibility when things like this happen. When sexual assault is already so underreported, this only makes people lose more faith. For women to be so intimately violated and then to go through the additional violation of an exam—they deserve a resolution. That evidence should be used by law enforcement to find her perp. Then she finds out that, after being assaulted, going through a four-to-ten-hour exam, it’s just sitting on a shelf for years and years? That person can’t believe in the criminal justice system, and other potential survivors can’t have faith in the criminal justice system. We need to make sure that our survivors know we’re doing everything we can to make sure it never happens again. We are going to try to bring justice to them now.

WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION ON DISCOVERING THESE BACKLOGGED KITS?

I was very angry: How did this happen? But, you know what? I had to move on. I couldn’t spend my energy looking back on how it happened. Obviously, we had to make sure it didn’t happen again. I had to focus on getting these kits tested, prosecuted, and focus on that. The way law enforcement treats these survivors is a priority.

IDEALLY, AFTER AN EXAM, WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN?

A rape kit should be picked up by law enforcement, taken to a lab and examined, and evidence should then be entered into a DNA database and to help find the link to other crimes. Rapists rape an average of 11 times; catching one is akin to catching many more. Most rapists are serial rapists.

Rapists rape an average of 11 times; catching one is akin to catching many more. Most rapists are serial rapists.

WHAT INITIATIVES ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW, AND HOW WILL THEY HELP SURVIVORS?

We just passed the Sexual Assault Kit Evidence Submission Act, which puts a timeline of about four months on testing for law enforcement and crime labs. It makes sure that going forward rape kits don’t sit in police departments and aren’t backed up. We had huge bipartisan support. We still have to deal with the old ones, though. We’re getting a handle on that. We’re also working with UPS to develop a tracking system on these kits. If we can track packages on Amazon, we should be able to track the shipments of these kits.

We’re also working on Enough SAID. [The partnership teams the prosecutor’s office with the Michigan’s Women’s Foundation and the Detroit Crime Commission for a pioneering collaboration to raise $10 million to tackle the rape kit backlog. The money will fund a cold case sexual assault team of detectives and attorneys to handle the kits.] Through Enough SAID, we’re proving that through focus, patience, and passion, this can be done.

WHAT DOES THE ENOUGH SAID INITIATIVE SIGNIFY TO THE SURVIVOR COMMUNITY?

That we have the potential to bring justice to thousands who wouldn’t have gotten it otherwise. We’re giving them confidence that every effort will be taken to give them justice.

HOW DOES YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A SURVIVOR SHAPE YOUR WORK?

I don’t think I’d be any less passionate even if not a survivor. How can anyone with humanity turn their backs on this issue?

THIS ISN’T UNIQUE TO MICHIGAN. HOW CAN PEOPLE IN OTHER STATES TACKLE THE BACKLOG PROBLEM?

Make it a public issue. Go to your police chief and legislature. Be vocal. The more we talk about it, the more we can make sure this doesn’t happen again. When a woman does have the courage to get an exam done, we need make sure we honor that and follow through.

Learn more about the rape kit backlog in your state and how you can help ENDTHEBACKLOG.

 

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