Politics and Reality

I was never one to really pay attention to politics or policies that were being put into place, I just kind of accepted them as reality and figured that there were people far more educated and knowing than me putting them in place so I shouldn’t question it.  However, that changed around my sophomore/junior year in college.  This is when I really got heavily involved in violence prevention and research, taking courses such as a seminar in Dating and Sexual Violence, research in Family Violence, a CAPSTONE project (i.e. I did data analysis looking at rape myth acceptance and knowledge of the issues on my campus) etc.  These courses really brought my attention to the significant gap between research/the anti-violence movement and policy.  Now, I am fully aware that enacting new policies takes a lot of time and effort and things cannot change as quickly as we might like.  But the fact that up until 1981 (If my information is correct from http://www.nhcadsv.org) legally one could not sexually assault one’s partner (in my home state) just screams to me a lack of acknowledgement of these issues and illustrates the fact that policymakers are not giving as much consideration as we would like to laws/policies pertaining to domestic and sexual violence.  Also, the majority of services to survivors of these types of violence is funded through the Violence Against Women Act, most recently updated in 1994, which is currently under fire on the state level.  It is frustrating for someone like me who a) has participated and read substantial amounts of research on these subjects and can attest to the wide body of research showing the benefits of these services and b) works at a crisis center serving survivors of sexual assault and relationship violence and sees on a daily basis the impact these services have, to feel like all of this work and research is being done basically for nothing if it does not make an impact on the policies. 

With the upcoming presidential election, I have been following it much closer than I have in the past.   Because I have become so involved in this movement myself more aware of politics, not just surrounding violence, but also human rights policies in general.  For me, it is important what a candidate thinks on issues such as abortion and equal pay for women.  While I think these issues are important in and of themselves, they also shine light on the way a candidate sees women, which can and will impact their position on funding policies such as the Violence Against Women Act.  If a candidate feels that a woman should not have the right to choose what to do with her body (i.e. pro-life) and/or feels that men’s work is more valuable than women’s, that is problematic to me because it suggests that that candidate sees women as inferior and perpetuates the systemic view that males are more important and women are lesser people.  It is this view of women and their role that perpetuates rape culture and plays a part in allowing sexual assaults to continue at the rate they are.  Now, I am not in any way saying that male power is the only reason sexual assaults happen, or domestic violence happens, but I believe it plays a part.  Going off a stereotype here: if a husband sees his wife as less important than himself, he may (I am not saying that he will) be more inclined to abuse his wife verbally/emotionally/physically etc.  

In case you haven’t picked up on it already, I am an avid supporter of violence prevention and education.  I think that this is especially important in the world of politics because it can have such a wide and lasting impact.  If we (those involved in this movement) were to educate policymakers on the research that exists as well as evidence from our own experiences, I think we could make an impact and perhaps help change policies such as mandatory arrest policies that can often cause problems for victims of violence.

So please, in these upcoming elections give some consideration to these issues and think about what impact the candidate would have on the lives of everyone: men, women, survivors or domestic violence, or victims of sexual assault.

Alcohol and Sexual Assault

I have noticed that the crisis center I work at, again it is on a college campus, tends to get the most reports of sexual assault after a time that is notorious for partying (i.e. first week back from  break, homecoming etc.).  I think this highlights an important issue that is very complex and can be very loaded.  To me, this highlights the correlation between sexual assault and alcohol.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am NOT saying that alcohol causes sexual assault.  In fact, I think that alcohol is used as an excuse to justify the assault and to blame the victim.  For example, I have great issues with the statement that people (read: girls) will ‘cry rape’ if they wake up after a night of drinking to realize that they have had a sexual encounter that they regret.  To me, this minimizes the issue of sexual assault, particularly when alcohol is involved.  In reality, when considering the number of false rape reports (as well as unfounded reports), it is extremely small compared to reports of sexual assault that are considered to be “real” or founded* (i.e. a police investigation found that there was evidence to support the claims).

However, I don’t necessarily agree with the statement that all sexual activity when someone is intoxicated is rape (that is my re-wording of the statement that you cannot consent to sexual activity while intoxicated).  I think saying that oversimplifies the issue and takes two key factors out, namely, the role alcohol played in the situation , and any existing (or lack of) feelings/desires between the people.  For me personally (and other disagree) I believe it is sexual assault if: alcohol is used as a tool to take advantage of somebody else and/or if the sexual contact would not have taken place under other circumstances.

I think it is sad and unfortunate the number of sexual assaults that take place at this university (and others) that involve alcohol.  I think David Lisak’s research really shines some light on this issue and would really recommend it to anyone who is interested.  Lisak does some very interesting research with fraternities and other groups known to have a reputation for perpetrating sexual assault and looks at the circumstances surrounding the assaults.  He has coined the term the “Undetected Rapist” and pointed out the very purposeful targeting and manipulating of victims and the very intentional use of alcohol in their assaults.  He talks about it in this video:
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=5592427n.  This video gets at so many other good things (particularly surrounding the police investigation) but I won’t get into that right now…

This video (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124272157) is also interesting.

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*DiCanio, M. (1993). The encyclopedia of violence: origins, attitudes, consequences. New York: Facts on File.

Things have cer…

Things have certainly picked up around here.  Yesterday I had three one-to-one meetings with survivors or their allies and my coworker also had one as well.  I am getting a little more comfortable in these meetings, and have been a lot more aware of not coming across as a friend but instead as an advocate who is trained in these matters.  I still think I need to work on a few things. I really need practice initiating the conversation and getting things started — I’ve been just kind of walking in and introducing myself and asking what brought them in.  A coworker suggested that after I introduce myself to say something like “I’m just here to listen to what you have to say, so it’s completely up to you what you want to talk about or not talk about, but know that everything you choose to tell me is completely confidential and won’t leave this room.” and then ask what brought them in if they don’t start talking on their own.  Also, I’ve noticed that at times I am somewhat intimidated by the people I am talking with and notice myself getting really awkward and sounding like I don’t know what I’m doing.  I think it’s important to remind myself that I have gone through intensive training on these subjects and that chances are, I do know more than most of the people I am working with. I need to stop feeling like I have something to prove to the clients 

Some things have gone well though! I did my first solo court accompaniment last week for a final protective order hearing.  The hearing didn’t go quite like we had anticipated because the defendant didn’t contest the order and it turned more into a hearing to decide who got what stuff from the apartment.  But it was nice to know that I was there and the client thanked me for being there and said it meant a lot, so maybe I’m doing something right?

All in all, I feel like I’m still learning what to say and how to say things, but my coworkers have been great at giving me feedback and suggestions, so hopefully things will continue to go pretty smoothly.

After spending …

After spending five hours working with someone yesterday, I am really beginning to recognize what I need to work on to be a better advocate, and that’s what this blog is all about.  I noticed myself acting more like a friend instead of being more professional and distance myself a little bit.  I guess the person was granted the protective order, so I did something right to help get that granted. So going forward I need to remember to take a step back and be very aware of how I’m coming across.  Also, I need to remember to breathe and think about what I say before I speak so I don’t overwhelm people or give too complicated of an answer.  While we were sitting waiting for the paperwork to be reviewed, the survivor thanked me for going with them and helping distract them while we waited by talking about silly things like hybrid cars and service animals.  It was nice to hear that I did something correctly and made a difference.  It’s nice to start doing things on my own and get a feel for my strengths & weaknesses and where I could improve, that’s the only way I’m going to get better!

There’s nothin…

There’s nothing new going on in my world. I’m hosting my first support chat tonight from 7-8.  Basically, I’m there to provide support or information to survivors/allies of survivors.  I will be doing this the first and third Tuesday nights throughout the year.  I am nervous about it, worried that people will come in and I won’t know what to say — but doing the Ask an Advocate replies has helped me.  They suggested that I start a mock conversation between two accounts so that when someone comes in the room it looks like someone is already there and talking. I may try that.  I’ll post back tomorrow with how it went.