Another Man Standing Against Sexual Violence

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Reuben picDespite supporting survivors, working against rape culture, and participating in the local feminist community for years, I had never really thought of myself as an activist or even as someone really worthy of speaking out. I felt unsure of myself, and didn’t want to be a know-it-all white guy speaking up just to feel important. But this sense of myself has recently begun to change.

I was moved last November after reading about Jen Kirkman, a comedian profiled on Jezebel who went on a Twitter strike until there was more public support from men about online harassment of women. She created the site MA’AM: Men Aligned Against Misogyny to give men a space to speak out and voice their dislike for sexist behavior. Jen described her frustration with her male friends’ reluctance to publicly challenge other men’s hateful, belittling comments (such as: “shut up, jen, you’re a bummer, go back to being hot or maybe funny for once in your life”), instead sending her private messages to voice their discontent. However, as the article’s author asserts, “Private assurances of support don’t cut it anymore. It’s time for the dudes to step up, speak out, and call out the creepers and the critics who’ve made the web such a uniquely hostile environment for women who dare to be smart, to be political, to be funny.”

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Call to Action! Proposed bill would de-fund sexual assault and DV agencies

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Update: SB 664 was withdrawn in committee. Thank you for all your calls and emails to your representatives asking them to stand against this bill! However, the budget committee removed funding for displaced homemakers programs from the NC budget, which was one piece of SB 664. This would impact local agencies such as the Compass Center. Visit their website for more information about this issue.

Urgent call to action:  contact your representatives today to urge them to protect the Center, our sister organizations, and survivors of sexual and relationship violence across North Carolina by opposing SB 664!

SB 664 threatens to severely undermine services to survivors in our state by restructuring state funding to victim services agencies and establishing impractical eligibility requirements for that funding.  For example, under the new requirements, the Orange County Rape Crisis Center and the Compass Center would be ineligible for funding because Orange County does not have a domestic violence shelter.  And we are not alone.

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2012 and 2013 Community Award Recipients

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Each year, we recognize individuals and organizations that have made substantial contributions to our cause of ending sexual violence. Because we did not have a ceremony in 2012, we presented awards for both 2012 and 2013 during our Gratitude Gala in April:

 

As a thank you for all the work they’ve done to further our cause, we’d like to share the speeches that staff members gave recognizing each recipient’s contributions.

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New Bill Aims to Protect Child Victims of Human Trafficking

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Did you know that today in North Carolina, children who are victims of human trafficking can be prosecuted?  It’s true.  In our state, the commercial sexual exploitation of children is legally viewed in many cases as prostitution, a crime committed by the minor in question rather than against him or her.

The US Department of Justice estimates that the most frequent age of entry into the commercial sex industry in the United States is 12-14 years.  And what’s more, GEMS reports that 70-90% of commercially sexually exploited children have a history of child sexual abuse.  Current practice is to treat these already vulnerable and traumatized children as criminals — despite the fact that they are not choosing prostitution themselves but are being forced or coerced into it (i.e. trafficked) by their pimps/boyfriends.  But, as of this week, change is on the horizon!

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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month!

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In 2001, April was first declared Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. Sexual assault is defined by the Department of Justice as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” Read below to learn more about sexual assault, what you can do to prevent it, and how the Center can help. 

The Facts

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What Fantine Teaches Us About Modern Human Trafficking

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Back in January, Programs Director Laurie Graham contributed a blog post about human trafficking in honor of Human Trafficking Awareness Month. While the official month of awareness may be over, the reality of human trafficking is not.

In February, actress Anne Hathaway won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Fantine in Les Misefantinerables. In the story, Fantine is a single mother forced by economic necessity into prostitution. In interviews promoting the film, Hathaway spoke frequently of finding inspiration for the role by researching the reality of modern-day sex slavery. As she told Word & Film’s Tony Phillips, “[…] I came to the realization that I had been thinking about Fantine as someone who lived in the past – but she doesn’t. She’s living in New York City right now. She’s probably less than a block away.” Hathaway’s words, and her portrayal of Fantine, speak not only to the reality of contemporary human trafficking, but also to its insidious presence right in all of our own backyards. In fact, North Carolina ranks among the top 8 states for human trafficking in the United States.

Human trafficking is often misunderstood as an issue that exclusively impacts foreign nationals. While international trafficking and trafficking of foreign nationals is undeniably a huge issue, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Trafficking victims are very often U.S. citizens who are forced into sex slavery by economic necessity, abusive home situations, or any number of other circumstances. In order for a situation to be legally classified as “human trafficking,” it does not need to involve movement across borders, smuggling, or movement of any kind. Rather, human trafficking is defined as any commercial exchange of sex or labor that involves force, fraud, or coercion (though in the case of sex trafficking of minors, force, fraud, and coercion are not necessary). This definition includes pimp-controlled prostitution.

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Building Resilience in Girls

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Just like in coloring books, drawing outside the lines is beautiful.

The winner of the Love Your Body campaign’s 2012 poster contest.

On a daily basis we are inundated with media messages that make not-so-subtle suggestions on how we should live our lives: how we should look, what we should eat, who we should surround ourselves with, and more. More often than not, these messages are harmful by promoting unattainable standards. And if they are harmful for adults, can you imagine what the effects these messages have on our youth, especially young girls?

Here at the Center, we believe in helping young girls foster a healthy and positive sexual identity because in doing so, they are empowered to expect and demand relationships free from coercion, disrespect, and violence. But, in order to encourage this, we need to help our girls build resilience against harmful media messages that promote the objectification and sexualization of young girls.

It is no easy task to just ignore the media and all the pressures that come with it. But if we want our society to change, and if we want our girls to believe they are wonderful just as they are, then we need to provide women and girls with skills to recognize and reject harmful media messages.

About-Face and the NOW Foundation’s Love Your Body campaign provide great ways to tackle harmful media consumption. Here are a few of my personal favorites:

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From the Director’s Desk: Courage, Compassion & Community

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Carolina Stands with Survivors

Over the past two months, members of our community have been disheartened to read about the allegations surrounding the handling of sexual assault cases at UNC. In the wake of the 2011 Title IX Dear Colleague Letter, we have watched similar media stories about universities across the nation, but as with anything, it is often more difficult to reconcile challenges that are close to home. In the coming months there may be more publicity, more questions, and possibly even more disappointment, but there is also the opportunity for a strategic community response to sexual violence.

On a daily basis, our staff and volunteers witness the courage of survivors who share the devastation that sexual violence has had on their lives. While survivors come to the Center seeking help in their recovery process, they come first and foremost baring their deepest secrets to someone who will believe them. Disclosure can take a tremendous amount of courage for anyone, and for our community’s college students, we find that they are doubly fearful of being excluded from what equates to a new sense of family. Statistics show that most violent crimes, including rape and sexual assault, are committed by someone the victim knows. Students often have to worry about how their friends and acquaintances will react if they disclose assault perpetrated by someone within their social circle.

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New Year, New Chance to Pass VAWA

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At the start of 2013, staff at the Center fielded many questions about potential repercussions when the 112th Congress did not reauthorize VAWA. Just one month later, we find the 113th Congress committed to action. Last week, Senate Bill 47 passed to reauthorize the landmark Violence Against Women Act sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Michael Crapo (R-ID). And now, this bill is once again in the hands of the House of Representatives.

Why We Need VAWA

The Senate-approved bill is very similar to the bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Leahy and Crapo last Congress and would improve VAWA programs and strengthen protections for all victims of violence. It includes many important improvements, such as addressing the criminal justice response to sexual assault, domestic violence homicides, housing needs, and campus victimization, all of which were included in legislation last year.

The current Senate bill also includes enhanced protections for tribal, LGBT, and immigrant victims. These extra provisions were identified as critical priorities by advocates across the country and received bipartisan support both last year and this year in the Senate.

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Why Not Make a Report?

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Don't Rape

“Why were you drinking?”
“What were you wearing?”
“Why did you leave with him?”
“How come you don’t have any bruises?”
“Didn’t you know what would happen?”

These are some of the questions that are commonly asked of survivors seeking help after a sexual assault. And while there are many reasons that someone may not want to report an assault, victim-blaming questions such as those are one of the main factors that prevent survivors from coming forward.

The repercussions of speaking out can be traumatic. Victim-blaming, public shaming and humiliation, fear of retaliation from one’s attacker, and not being believed are some of the many reasons why survivors do not report their assault to the police or seek help from friends and family members.

Additionally, statistics have shown that most assaults occur between people who know each other, raising a whole new set of concerns. The survivor may care for their attacker and not want to get them in trouble. They may fear being ostracized by their social group if they accuse a friend of rape. Friends not wishing to have “drama” in the group may ignore or write off an assault, leaving the survivor without any support.

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