BEYOND MERE SURVIVAL


Results! Results!

I felt pretty tentative sharing information publicly because I had little proof that things would work, besides saying “this is what I am learning, here it is…”. Finally, I can say that I have some really tangible ways to connect what I have learned, and how I changed lots of things in my life to respond to being sick, to actual results.

Last year, when I was diagnosed with fibroids, I was also found to be anemic, have a low white cell count, and high glucose.  I just got my blood work results, and 10 months after the abnormal ones, I am no longer anemic, and everything else is normal. On a practical/monetary note, I actually delayed getting blood work done because I could not find an affordable way to do it, but I discovered that the Chicago Women Health Center has a sliding scale blood test ranging from 25$ to 80$.

In addition the fibroid has not grown, and it has actually shrunk slightly. The symptoms ( heavy bleeding, pain, weakness, nausea, dizziness) have also improved severely.

It is a longer road to try to get better this way, but it feels much more permanent and deep than taking the pill to stanch the bleeding, or an operation to remove the fibroid without addressing the imbalance that caused it in the first place. In the past year, with the death of Steve Jobs, there has been so much talk of how he would not have died if he had not subscribed to “wacky”, “alternative” treatment like acupuncture or diet change. It sucks to think that such dissing may discourage people from taking care of themselves in ways that could be very helpful.

For me, at least, changing my diet, exercise routine, and adding yoga and acupuncture actually helped me manage and heal from a medical condition. I’ll be happy to share more in-depth info if anyone needs it.



kicked out

i kicked out someone of the classroom today for the first time ever.  i have always hated when teachers did that. it’s such a cope out. and here i am.

i wish i had more time to address his reaction, his discomfort, his prejudice, but i did not. i had 45 minutes to try to explain the complexities of sexual violence, and crack the hard shell of streotypes and myth surrounding the issue.

he just couldn’t get over the fact that gay people do not rape. that men that rape men do it to humiliate, hurt and a overpower, not for sexual pleasure. they are straight men. they have girlfriends and wives. they are not attracted to other men. but none of that was being received. he would not even let me finish a sentence. all that was coming out of his mouth was “then they are gay, if they want to rape guys then they are fags”.  then he got up, started disturbing other kids, and throwing pencils.and i told him to leave, but it was throughly unsatisfying. he left that classroom with the same homophobic ideas than when he entered it, and i failed.



more Q&A

i am trying to post more questions from students as i get them, because there see, to be a never ending avalanche of them, and it is often a challenge for me to try to answer in a way that feels appropriate and thoughtful, accurate and helpful…

so there:

  1. Why are guys into sex at a young age (13)? Why are men more sexually attracted to porn than women?

These two questions are similar and both ask about men and boy’s feelings about sex.

Not all guys are into sex. There is a lot of pressure on guys to act or speak as if they were really interested in sex. We talked about gender and different messages we get from society on the first day we were there, and saw that for a guy it is expected to like girls, and to care a lot about sex. A guy might not really care or know much about sex and still feel like he has to talk/act as if he does, to get attention or to feel accepted by his peers. Similarly, it is more accepted for men in our society to use porn. Every person’s sexual desire is different and personal, and should be respected.

  1. Has anyone received threats while staying at the middle way?

Shelter was created as a safe place for women and children to live away from violence. The middle way staff and volunteers put in their best efforts to make it a welcoming and comfortable environment for the residents. We keep information about residents confidential, and respect their privacy. We also have specific plans to respond to threats or to abusers looking survivors at shelter.

  1. Why do people rape? Why do men rape more that women?

That’s a really good question! We talked a bit about that already. People assault mostly because they want to feel in control of another person, and have power over them. Many times people that rape/assault feel entitled to force someone to have sex with them, many times because they feel that they are better than the other person because of sexism, classism, or racism. Unfortunately we live in a society where rape and sexual assault are sometimes seen as acceptable and not a big deal. It’s up to all of us to change that, and to push for a society where people engage in healthy behaviors, and see each other’s as equals.

There can be many different answers to the question of why men assault more than women, and some research has been done to try to find out why rapists decide to assault. The most accurate answer I can give goes back to the ideas of gender we talked about on the first day, when we did the girl and boy box activity. Many boys and men still grow up in an environment that teaches them to be aggressive, insensitive and to see women as less then them. Interviews and studies done on rapists show that the vast majority of rapists hold very traditional beliefs about gender, and feel that having sex is their right, no matter what the person that they raped wanted .

    As Lisa Vetten , the Gender Co-ordinator of the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in South Africa explains: “men rape because they believe they have the right to control and to punish women who do not obey their rules of behavior. Rape is an expression of unequal power relations between men and women. Such unequal power relations are not the result of nature or evolution but societies which, through legislation and social custom, have made women second-class citizens”
    I want to make it clear that even though men account for over 95% or rapes (Kats, 2006), most men don’t rape. Since most rapists are men though, men are in a unique position to help in the movement against sexual violence. I am attaching a few resources from men’s organizations committed to ending gender violence.

TEN THINGS MEN CAN DO TO PREVENT GENDER VIOLENCE

  1. Approach gender violence as a MEN’S issue involving men of all ages and socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds. View men not only as perpetrators or possible offenders, but as empowered bystanders who can confront abusive peers
  2. If a brother, friend, classmate, or teammate is abusing his female partner — or is disrespectful or abusive to girls and women in general — don’t look the other way. If you feel comfortable doing so, try to talk to him about it. Urge him to seek help. Or if you don’t know what to do, consult a friend, a parent, a teacher, or a counselor. DON’T REMAIN SILENT.
  3. Have the courage to look inward. Question your own attitudes. Don’t be defensive when something you do or say ends up hurting someone else. Try hard to understand how your own attitudes and actions might inadvertently perpetuate sexism and violence, and work toward changing them.
  4. If you suspect that a woman close to you is being abused or has been sexually assaulted, gently ask if you can help.
  5. If you are emotionally, psychologically, physically, or sexually abusive to women, or have been in the past, seek professional help NOW.
  6. Be an ally to women who are working to end all forms of gender violence. Support the work of campus-based women’s centers. Attend “Take Back the Night” rallies and other public events. Raise money for community-based rape crisis centers and battered women’s shelters. If you belong to a team or fraternity, or another student group, organize a fundraiser.
  7. Recognize and speak out against homophobia and gay-bashing. Discrimination and violence against lesbians and gays are wrong in and of themselves. This abuse also has direct links to sexism (eg. the sexual orientation of men who speak out against sexism is often questioned, a conscious or unconscious strategy intended to silence them. This is a key reason few men do so).
  8. Attend programs, take courses, watch films, and read articles and books about multicultural masculinities, gender inequality, and the root causes of gender violence.  Educate yourself and others about how larger social forces affect the conflicts between individual men and women.
  9. Don’t fund sexism. Refuse to purchase any magazine, rent any video, subscribe to any Web site, or buy any music that portrays girls or women in a sexually degrading or abusive manner. Protest sexism in the media.
  10. Mentor and teach young boys about how to be men in ways that don’t involve degrading or abusing girls and women. Volunteer to work with gender violence prevention programs, including anti-sexist men’s programs. Lead by example

Copyright 1999, Jackson Katz. www.jacksonkatz.com
Reprint freely with credit.

  1. How many calls do you get about rape?

It really depends; some weeks are busier than others, especially around the start of the school year and little 500. We have gotten as many as 10/15 calls in a week, or none at times. In 2007 we had about 70 calls to the hospital.

  1. What should you do if someone is trying to rape you?

Every person has a different reaction to being assaulted. There is not one “right” way to react. Some people freeze, and become really still during the assault because of fear, some cry, some try to push the perpetrator away. It’s important to listen to your instincts. Many people that are raped say that they felt uncomfortable with the person and unsafe even before the assault happened. If you feel unsafe/uncomfortable with someone leave the situation if you can, call a friend or trusted adult. And whatever happens know that it is not your fault, the person that decided to hurt you is responsible for it!

Here are some more general tips from the University of California rape Prevention Center.
IN GENERAL

  • Know the real picture. Most rapes (85%) are committed by non-strangers and in familiar, social situations.
  • Men who rape usually try to gain trust to test your boundaries.
  • Trust your very first feeling of uneasiness.
  • Don’t dismiss that feeling.
  • Act on it by firmly saying “no”, “leave me alone” or leave if necessary.
  • Don’t worry about hurting feelings or appearing rude.
  • Use a strong, serious voice. Don’t plead or play cute.
  • Don’t apologize.
  • Look for others to assist if you need to.
  • If the aggressor is an intimate partner, tell them in a serious tone that you are not comfortable and want them to stop. Now.
  • Believe in your right to your own body.

    AT PARTIES
  • Be aware that men who rape often use alcohol to exploit your vulnerability. They tend to try to make you drink more than you intended.
  • Keep in control of your drinking.
  • Don’t leave a drink unattended, or accept a drink that someone else has given you. Most times this is harmless, but you are trying to avoid the one time it isn’t.
  • Think ahead. Have a safe way to get home already planned.
  • If in a group, plan ahead to watch out for one another.
  • If a friend looks as though she or he is losing control, step in and take care of them.
  • If a friend is harassing women, make it your concern.
  • Remember you cannot tell the good guys from the bad guys by appearance or good looks.
  • Watch out for someone who is pressuring you; who keeps giving you drinks; who wants to get you alone; who guilt trips you if you are reluctant.
    Don’t be afraid to ask for help if someone is making you feel threatened.
  1. How do boys rape boys (like physically how)? How do girls rape girls?

Remember that when we talked about rape we clarified that rape is any non-consensual intercourse. It can happen if someone pressures, threatens or tricks another person, and not just with physical force.  The law says that rape is any unwanted intercourse, meaning any unwanted vaginal or anal penetration.

  1. If someone is over the age of 18 and has sex with a 16 yr old, can the parents do anything about it since the 16 year old is under the age of consent, but still a minor?
    The legal age for consent in Indiana is 16 years old. Legally speaking a person that is 16 can consent to sexual activity. However, we discussed how there is more to consent than just the legal factors of being 16, sober, and awake. Consent is giving permission, meaning that a person has the information and the time to think in order to make a decision they are happy with. In a relationship where one partner is much older than the other, it can be difficult to maintain an equal relationship, and it may be easier for the younger person to feel pressured, or to be manipulated. Your parents or guardians are legally responsible for you until you turn 18, so they have the legal right to stop you from seeing someone that they don’t approve of. However they could not press charges against the person that is over 18 if the sex was consensual and you are over 16.
  1. Does the middle way help people in romantic relationships who are having problems but no evidence?
    Absolutely! In the majority of cases there is little evidence, in the traditional sense of DNA or witnesses, for sexual assault and rape. We support and advocate for anyone that needs it, and we believe what people say. Our role is not to prove crimes or question people, but to empower, support, and advocate for you.
  1. How many sexual assault cases happen and go to Bloomington hospital in a year? How many are female and how many are male?
    It is really difficult to figure out how many cases of sexual assault happen every year, because sexual assault is a widely underreported crime. In terms of the Middle way, we have gotten as many as 10/15 calls in a week for sexual assault and rape, or none at times. In 2007 we had about 70 calls to the hospital fro sexual assault.
    The majority of people that call for sexual assault are female, but we get calls from males also sometimes.
  1. What is the best was to fight or stop a situation that is going the wrong way?
    It’s hard to answer this question because it’s a bit vague. We discussed the difference between fighting and arguing. Healthy disagreements and discussion can happen between people and are characterized by open communication, listening, and feeling safe around the person you are arguing with. If someone is using intimidation, put downs, cuss words, and violence than it’s unhealthy and scary. Everyone has the right to feel safe in their relationships.
    In terms of stopping a situation that is going the wrong way, if someone is being violent towards you it’s their choice to do that, and they are responsible for stopping themselves.
    If the violence is happening to you, you have every right to be safe and to be in a healthy relationship. There can be many options to get out of a violent situation: You can decide to call for the police or if you are at school, you can call a teacher that you trust. If you see someone getting inappropriate attention you can also engage them directly and ask them if they are ok, if they need help or resources. You can also simply tell the assaulter to stop, many times people that assault rely on everyone around them being silent about what is going on, and calling attention to it can be a powerful deterrent. And remember the crisis line and the middle way resources are there for you.
  1. Does your “cherry” pop the first time for every girl?
    From the Sinclair Intimacy and Health Institute (Copyright 2002)
    The hymen, colloquially referred to as “the cherry”, has historically been a marker of a woman’s virginity. The belief that since the hymen blocked the vaginal opening, it should remain intact as long as a woman did not have sexual intercourse was widely propagated, especially in cultures where a woman’s virginity was highly valued.
    But it is scientific fact that the hymen can be separated for reasons quite unconnected to sexual intercourse. It can separate when the body is stretched strenuously, as in athletics; it can be separated by inserting a tampon during menstruation or through masturbation; and sometimes it is separated for no apparent reason.

A separated hymen is not an indication of having had intercourse, nor can it prove a loss of virginity. When the hymen is separated, whether during first intercourse or at some other time, there may be some slight bleeding and a little pain. Both the bleeding and the pain are quite normal and both usually stop after a short time. Some women experience no discomfort at all during this process that is commonly referred to as “losing your cherry”.



do you have something to say about gender violence?
November 24, 2008, 1:30 pm
Filed under: gender violence | Tags: , , , ,

i know i am kind of a broken record because i talk about the same things all the time, but here is the deal:
indiana is finally trying to implement a broad sexual asssault prevention plan, and insted of having random “professionals” decide what is best, they are asking hoosiers to fill out this survey to get an idea of what really affects people in their life and how to push for positive change.

it’s all online at : http://www. in. gov/isdh/23820. htm

even if you fill out a couple of questions it’s still helpful///deadline is dec.15



Q&A high school

here are some of the high school questions

4. Are there gangs of people that sexual assault?

Gang rape (as of gang members raping) does happen, but it’s more of an overblown media story than the reality of sexual assault. What is more frequent is that rape can happen at the hands of a group of people. That’s because there can be a lot of peer pressure to engage in a certain behavior within a group, or because the toxic ideas of gender we talked about on the first day can be exacerbated in a group setting, and sexual assault can become a way to prove one’s toughness, or masculinity. That’s why it’s so important to speak up against behaviors that are hurtful.


1. What if you are in an isolated place and you get raped?

Most people are raped in isolated places, as to minimize risks of getting caught. In terms of what you should you do if you are sexually assaulted, it really depends. Everyone has a different reaction to being attacked, and there is not necessarily one “good” way to react. Some people physically resist the assault, and some become numb because they are so scared, it’s important to remember that whatever reaction you had was appropriate, and that it’s important to trust your instincts. If you feel in danger, try to find a safer place. Many people say they felt unsafe but did not leave the situation for fear of being ridiculed, or because they did not want to show that they were uncomfortable.
2. How likely is it that the same perpetrator will strike the same victim again?
Many people that sexually assault are repeat offenders. There are several reasons for that: we have seen that holding certain beliefs of superiority and entitlement over other people can lead people to believe that it’s ok to rape as a way to feel powerful, to control and to humiliate. Rape can become a way for people to feel in power, and it has little to do with sexual desire. If a person feels that there will be no or little consequences for their choice to assault they might do it again. Consequences for raping are not limited to jail time, but could be isolation from friends and family, loss of jobs, humiliation and social shunning. Unfortunately there is very little research about the frequency of repeat rape because sexual assault is an incredibly difficult crime to measure and quantify.
3. How can a girl rape a boy?
We have seen that rape is not just forcing someone to have sex. Making somebody have sex through pressure, coercion, or threats is also rape. A woman can rape a man by using these tools of coercion. If you mean how it is physically possible, men’s bodies can have a sexual response to rape and sexual assault, because that’s what we are physiologically meant to do. I want to point out that most rapes are perpetrated by men, even when the victims are men, and not women. Another important note is that men that rape other men are straight men, which illustrates the fact that rape is not about sex; it’s about control and power.
4. Is it true that people that are more sexually “inclined” are more likely to rape, even though rape is about power and control?
Rape can become a tool to prove one’s masculinity, and we saw that one of the pressures that men have from society is to have many sexual partners, and to be overly sexual in order to be a “real” man. So the power and control motive is still there, even if sexual assault can be a way to prove one’s sexual prowess.


5. How is it acceptable to not report rape? Isn’t it everyone’s responsibility to report, so it stops happening?

As we saw in question #3, some of the most powerful deterrent when it comes to rape are not the treats of jail time, but the fear of losing social status, friends and family, or a job. One of the most powerful ways we have to stop sexual assault is to not tolerate a culture where some people are worth less than others, where we feel entitled to treat others poorly because of gender, sexual orientation, race or class. That can be calling someone out on a sexist joke, or just watching out for our own way of treating other people.
Another step would be to push for a criminal justice system that strives for true accountability, where survivors are heard, and where offenders have a chance to change instead of sitting in a cell for a few years and then being released back into society.



Q&A- middle school

i decided to start posting batches of questions that are asked by students during presentations, i hope they are helpful and or interesting.

these are from middle school

1. How many rape calls do you get per week?

It really depends; some weeks are busier than others, especially around the start of the school year and little 5. We have gotten as many as 10/15 calls in a week, or none at times. In 2007 we had about 70 calls to the hospital.

2. Do you house couples that are both in a difficult situation?

We don’t house couples because it would be difficult and possibly dangerous. As you might remember the people in shelter live in a communal space, meaning that they have to share bathrooms, a kitchen and a room sometimes. In order for it to be a safe and comfortable place for everyone we don’t house couples, because it might become a dramatic, emotion-laden situation that would not be conducive to a safe living environment. Also, most often one person in the relationship is responsible for trying to control and have power over their partner, so we try to help and support the person being abused.

3. Why do people sexually assault?

That’s a really good question! We talked a bit about that already. People assault mostly because they want to feel in control of another person, and have power over them. Many times people that rape/assault feel entitled to force someone to have sex with them, many times because they feel that they are better than the other person because of sexism, classism, or racism. Unfortunately we live in a society where rape and sexual assault are sometimes seen as acceptable and not a big deal. It’s up to all of us to change that, and to push for a society where people engage in healthy behaviors, and see each other’s as equals.

4. Do really young children get sexually assaulted?

Yes. Sexual assault happens to people of all ages, colors, and backgrounds. People that are more vulnerable (like young people/people with serious mental illnesses) might be at a higher risk for being assaulted. Again sexual assaults do not happen because of sex, or how attractive someone is necessarily, they are more about power and control.

5. How many people become pregnant because of rape?

The latest information is could find was from a Center for Disease Control (a federal agency) study done in 2000. They report that about 4.7% of people that are raped become pregnant because of it.

6. If someone is over 16 and it’s raped by a parent, is it still rape?

Absolutely! Indiana Law just says that when you are 16 you are legally able to consent, meaning that legally you can decide whether you want to have sex or not. If a person does not want to have sex and someone has sex with them against their will it’s rape. No matter if the person raping you is your boyfriend, or a member of your family, or a stranger!

Q: Have you ever had a call of someone saying they have an online relationship & feeling assaulted or in danger?

A: Yes. In the past 10-15 years dating online has become more and more common and can have similar dynamics to “normal” relationships. The anonymity of the Internet can also give people a sense that they are less accountable for their actions, and make violence and threats escalate. It can be a very scary situation for people that can cause a great deal of stress and trauma. Harassment on the web is illegal and punishable by law.

Q: How often does rape occur?

A: According to research 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men in the United States experiences rape or attempted rape at some point of their life.

Q: Do people rape to get rid of anger?

A: People usually rape because they want to control or hurt another human being. Anger can be part of this desire for power and control.

Q: in what places do the highest numbers of sexual assaults and rape happen?

A: If you mean places in the world, countries where there is war of civil strife have the higher incidence of rape. Rape has been used throughout history as a weapon of domination and control in war. The lack of law enforcement agencies during war also creates a lack of accountability for the rapists. Countries in which one gender is considered less important or valuable than the other also have a higher incidence of rape (example: places where women are considered inferior than men). If you mean to ask if there are specific places where people are usually raped, the answer is in their home, or in the house of someone they know. The idea that people are attacked in a dark alley by a stranger is a myth, a stereotype, and rarely happens in real life.

9. If you see someone getting assaulted, how can you help?

It depends on the situation. You can decide to call for the police if you think someone is in danger and you don’t feel safe stopping it yourself. If you are at school you can call a teacher that you trust. If you see someone getting inappropriate attention you can also engage them directly and ask them if they are ok, if they need help or resources. You can also simply tell the assaulter to stop, many times people that assault rely on everyone around them being silent about what is going on, and calling attention to it can be a powerful deterrent.



april is sexual assault awareness month…?
April 11, 2008, 9:53 am
Filed under: gender violence | Tags: , ,

so…
april is sexual assaul awareness month. it has been a hard one.
i have been a crisis liner for 3 years at a domestic and sexual violence shelter, and an on scene advocate for 2.
but these credentials do not matter so much as the fact that gender violence has affected me throughout my life, and i see it affecting women ( and men) around me every day. it’s hard to put it in a few words, how important this is to me.
i think gender violence and discrimination is one of the pivotal axes of the fucked up and skewed power structures enabling some people to be hurtful and cruel while believing their actions are justified.
the more i educate myself and the more experience i have with gender violence work, the more i cannot escape the fact that it is a cultural phenomenon that won’t change without rethinking and questioning gender roles and norms.
so, it’s been frustrating to try to organize for sexual awareness month and be part of an organization that decided to bypass discussions and action for sidewalk chalk slogans and handing out pamphlets and water at the bars.

i don’t even know how to feel about the whole ” BLANK- month” thing. it’s just becoming a gimmick. each month is dedicated to a different niche, but instead of bringing the issues to te front, it relegates them to a safe space adorned with a different color ribbon.

i really don’t like to hate, i am sure someone out there is doing something awesome with april being sexual assault prevention month. if you are, send it my way. i am in need of some serious inspiration.