Feminist Friday

Stats on Military Sexual Assault

Yesterday the Senate blocked the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) bill. The current system requires that a rape or assault be reported to superiors within the chain of command. The bill would instead have reports be made to an independent military prosecutor. As Feministing pointed out, “The military is creating a system in which rape survivors must report their rapes to people who are friends with the rapists, or the rapists themselves. This obviously inhibits reporting.” No doubt Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the bill’s champion, will continue fighting for change regarding military sexual assault. Find out how your senator voted here, and let them know you’d like their support on this issue in the future.

In all of our post Oscar excitement it’s easy to forget that idolizing someone and understanding them are two very different things. This Buzzfeed article explains:

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Feminist Friday

Black History Month Super Post Edition:

Black Queer WomenActress and activist extraordinaire Gabrielle Union recently opened up about the sexual assault she experienced at age nineteen. Everyone heals in their own way and everyone speaks about their assault differently, so whether or not Union’s words resonate with you, it’s always amazing to see young women speak up about their experiences.

The ever wonderful Autostraddle compiled this mega list of amazing lesbian, bisexual, queer, and transgender black women and you should scroll through right now.

If that’s not enough, check out our feminist facts in honor of Black History Month!

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Feminist Friday

Happy Friday y’all! Celebrate the end of the week with a review of the progress being made around ending sexual violence! Plus, Gilmore Girls and Audre Lorde! …

AudreI wrote about the amazing girls of Youth Against Rape Culture and Hollaback Chapel Hill-Durham for SPARK Movement. They’re basically an all star activist team and they’re making moves in North Carolina.

Like any activist college student, I grew up with Gilmore Girls and while I always wanted to be Rory, this is a wonderful, chill inducing defense of Rory’s rival, Paris Geller makes me reconsider my Gilmore Girls role model.

Teenage girlhood is a kind of torture I would only wish on my worst enemies. Sure Rory had her troubles (choosing between guys, choosing which Ivy League to attend) but Paris truly felt the grunt of a geek solely focused academics and so completely clueless about boyfriends, dances, fashion, aka “girly” stuff. The same stuff I was clueless about too. No matter how many books she read or how many speeches she researched, nothing could prepare her for being a teenage girl. Through her entire run in Gilmore Girls, she’s seen as insecure and strong, smart and lost.

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Feminist Friday

It’s been a rough week for survivors and those who love them. We’ve had all things Woody Allen in the news, plus Piers Morgan insulting and mis-gendering Janet Mock. So with that in mind, here are some positive things to remember and think about as you head into your weekend. To quote  feminist writer Jamia Wilson, you can’t ignite change if you’re all burned out…

Filmmaker Jordan Coleman
Filmmaker Jordan Coleman

Jordan Coleman, now 18, created a documentary about domestic violence entitled Paying the Price when he was just sixteen. He spoke to Ebony on why domestic violence matters to him and how he uses media for social change.

After The Daily Beast’s horrifying defense of Woody Allen, it was a relief to see this post from Aaron Bady of The New Inquiry which clearly explains why we need to believe Dylan Farrow and appreciate the courage it took for her to speak about her trauma.

Transgender advocate Janet Mock’s new memoir, Redefining Realness, has just been released. I got the chance to interview her and in the spirit of self-care, this is what she said about taking time for herself:

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Ora DeKornfeld created Sensei, a short documentary about Brenda Mayfield, a Durham woman who became a martial arts teacher, or sensei, after being raped. We asked Ora to share with us her video and how it came to be. Watch the documentary and read more about Ora and Brenda below. (*Trigger warning)

Sensei from ora on Vimeo.

The first time I spoke with Brenda was on the phone. I had seen her number listed on a flier advertising ‘No Nonsense Self Defense’ at Joe’s Diner in East Durham and decided to give her a call. Her voice was immediately familiar and warm. She was so open, telling me about her childhood in foster care, the violence in her neighborhood and how she uprooted her life in Boston to move to Durham seven years ago. She didn’t know me at all and yet she warmly agreed to help me when I proposed to make a documentary about her. Little did she know this documentary would practically mean living together for the next month.

I followed Brenda’s every move— we went everywhere together, anywhere from the Harris Teeter to buy microwave dinners when her oven broke to trick-or-treating around the neighborhood on Halloween. She quickly got used to the camera and learned to ignore me. Though our hangouts usually ended with Brenda saying, “Okay Ora, get out of my house,” as we spent more and more time together, we became friends.

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Feminist Friday

One part of advocacy work is being conscious of current events and developments. From taking a stand against pop culture icons spouting problematic lyrics to advocating for healthy relationships, there are many ways to be activists and cultural critics in our movement.

Take a few minutes to catch up, get inspired, and maybe share a laugh with us. We’re going to bring you a weekly round-up of topics related to anti-violence and anti-oppression work, so stay tuned to our blog and our Facebook page for updates!

And without further ado, here’s this week’s round-up:

Beyonce & Jay-Z Grammys 2014You probably love Beyonce Knowles, force of nature, self-proclaimed feminist, certified babe. Her Grammy performance of “Drunk in Love” with her husband has but one flaw: Jay-Z’s lyrics make light of traumatic domestic violence. This article about Beyonce and domestic violence perfectly describes why those lyrics matter. After all, when one of your faves messes up, it’s important to hold them accountable.

President Obama recently announced that he is starting a task force on sexual assault on college campuses. On the To the Sexual Assault Task Force Tumblr, students are telling their stories and asking that their voices be heard on the task force.

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Partners in Prevention

Partners in PreventionThe Center is an official “Partner in Prevention,” a nationally-recognized public standard to end child sexual abuse (CSA). The designation was awarded for our commitment to protecting children by training 100% of our staff on how to prevent, recognize the signs, and react responsibly to CSA.

The “Partner in Prevention” designation was created as a national standard to help parents and caregivers recognize organizations who take CSA prevention seriously by training staff and implementing effective prevention policies. The training and designation award is provided by Darkness to Light. D2L has championed the movement to end CSA since its founding in 2000 and now has education programs in 49 states and 15 foreign countries.

D2L’s training curriculum points out that CSA is pervasive in a society where it is repressed and not discussed. Though 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before the age of 18, less than a third of cases are reported. Thousands of organizations across the United States and Canada are now seeking out a dialogue for prevention, and they are sending parents and the community a message with the Partner in Prevention distinction.

Rachel Valentine, the Center’s Rape Prevention Educator Coordinator, is a trained facilitator for D2L’s Stewards of Children program. In addition to training our own staff, she provides prevention education for adults across the Orange County community. The Stewards of Children program is especially designed for parents and caregivers of children. In the 2012-2013 academic year, Rachel trained 141 adults in proven child abuse prevention techniques.

For more information:

Downton Abbey’s Epic Fail, and What We Can Learn From It

** Spoiler alert/Trigger warning: If you’re a Downton Abbey fan who has not yet seen the most recent episode, which aired this past Sunday, January 12, in the US, spoilers are ahead in this blog post. Also, there is no explicit trigger warning for sexual violence on the episode, but there should be.

If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, you’re already well-aware of the show’s appeal factors, but for the rest of you, I’ll give you a brief rundown: It’s a British period drama about English aristocrats and the servants who work for them in the years leading up to, during, and after WWI. Pretty much everyone is white, and among all those white folks, there’s a lot of tea drinking, lavish costumes, light humor, and no small amount of snark. And, of course, there’s drama.

But the appeal of Downton, at least until Sunday’s episode, has always been the incredible restraint with which that drama has been handled. Much of it is entirely inconsequential to anyone who’s not a member of the early 20th century landed gentry — missing cufflinks, dinner served from the wrong side, etc. — and even when there is a genuinely catastrophic event, such as the death of one of the show’s main characters, it is handled with a subtlety and gentility that hits the appropriate emotional notes without leaving the viewer feeling their concern for beloved characters has been taken advantage of and used against them. Or such was the case before Sunday’s episode.

You can read an in-depth recap of Sunday’s episode here, but suffice it to say that all but the last 8 minutes were traditional Downton fare, with potential suitors, dinner guest drama, and a jar of jam breaking in the kitchen (no, for real, that was a whole thing). So when, in the final few minutes, we see Anna, arguably the most morally upright character on the show, downing Alka Seltzer alone in the empty kitchen while the rest of the household are upstairs listening to a performance from a visiting opera singer, my first thought was, “Oh dear, another health crisis storyline.” It wasn’t until Anna turned around to find herself face-to-face with a visiting valet whose previously open, charming face is suddenly glowering with menace (subtle!) that I realized the direction the scene was headed. Even so, this is Downton Abbey, not Law & Order: SVU. Surely someone would burst in at the last minute and stop him, right? Right?! Wrong.

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The Power of Social Connection

PowerOver the past year, the Center and NCCASA (North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault) have collaborated to develop The Power of Social Connection: Developing and coordinating sustainable support group programs for survivors of sexual violence, a support group manual and training program that will help rape crisis centers and other human service organizations learn how to create, improve, and manage support group programs.

With limited support group opportunities in North Carolina, we hope that this manual and training program will greatly expand healing services for survivors of violence across the state. Monika Johnson-Hostler, Executive Director of the NCCASA, said, “NCCASA is proud to partner in creating this comprehensive resource that sets the standard for support groups not only in North Carolina but across the country. As one of the three partners of the National Resource Sharing Project, we will share the manual with other state coalitions.”

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Safe Passage of Safe Harbor

Safe HarborNo one can deny that the most recent North Carolina Legislative Session was, to say the least, controversial.  But amid all the controversy came the passage of SB 683, otherwise known as the Safe Harbor Act. We first brought you news of this legislation back in April.  At the time, it was in the form of HB 825, a bill seeking to eliminate criminal prosecution of prostituted minors.  In their final vote on the bill, the NC House removed that particular provision, but it was thankfully restored by the Conference Committee before being unanimously passed on July 25 and signed into law by the governor on July 29, 2013.

Thanks to the Safe Harbor Act, North Carolina is now a safer and more supportive state for prostituted minors and all survivors of trafficking.  In addition to prostituted minors no longer facing criminal prosecution, all victims of trafficking can now have their prostitution offenses erased from their criminal record when it can be proven that they were forced into prostitution or were under 18 at the time of the offense. Continue reading “Safe Passage of Safe Harbor”