I hope you’re somewhere praying

Sometimes I pray for you at

On July 6th, Kesha revealed her first single in 4 years, along with its video, and a letter to her fans sharing her new album titled “Rainbow” would drop in August.

Kesha has been in a legal battle for the past few years against Dr.Luke who sexually and emotional abused her. After listening to this song today for the first time, the meaning behind it couldn’t come at a better time.

The song, Praying, discusses “Love thy enemy.” Kesha sings, “You brought the flames and you put me through hell, I had to learn how to fight for myself, And we both know all the truth I could tell, I’ll just say this is I wish you farewell, I hope you’re somewhere praying, praying, I hope your soul is changing, changing, I hope you find your peace, Falling on your knees, praying.”

To me, I feel that she is showing empathy towards her someone, her abuser or whomever has hurt her. I have a tendency to struggle on who deserves empathy/forgiveness and who doesn’t especially when it revolves around sexual violence.

Depending on the circumstances of the story I may hear in the news or read online, the perpetrator may receive my empathy, or I may hope they suffer. As I said it all depends on the severity of the crime. But I am Christen, and it isn’t very Christian-like for me to want someone to suffer. But is it unjust that I want to show compassion for the abuser in hopes that they turn to pray.

I have struggled with this when it comes to my own abuser. There are days I pray for him. I pray that he has changed his ways. And there are days that I do not.

I struggled with this when Trump’s “Locker room talk” came out and many people said that it didn’t matter what he said 10 years ago. I pray that he changes his ways, and that those individuals that say what was said then doesn’t matter, I pray they look at it differently. It’s not that it happened 10 years ago, more that they see that this type of conversation is disrespectful.

I don’t know if there is a wrong or right answer to this struggle, and that is why I am still divided on certain topics. But “Praying” hit home for me. And the monologue, she provides in the beginning of the video, I know not only have I felt that way, but so have many other individuals in this world. And to take those feelings and emotion and be proud, and give empathy to the cause of these feelings is truly couragous. So Kesha Thank you.

Check out Kesha’s letter to her fans here.

See the music video here.

Read my Lips – It starts with us – Guest Blogger

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Today is the first day of May, and as April has finally come to a conclusion, I wanted to share our latest guest blogger and their thought on the past month. So today, I have a really good friend sharing their story and participation in Red My Lips, what it means and what it did for them.

 

Red My Lips 2017

 

Last year my friend, Kristine, asked if I had wanted to participate in red my lips with her. (For those who do not know Red My Lips is a way to help speak out against victim-blaming in the month of April by wearing red lipstick) I gladly said yes, I was not very diligent with it though and wore my red lips maybe 8 times out of the month. I made a post every now and then and often wore the red lips for a picture and wiped it off by the end of the day. I had friends and family that were survivors and I wanted to support them but didn’t want to step outside my comfort zone with it. The last thing I wanted was the attention on my red lips when walking across campus. I made conversation with a couple people about my red lips but very little contact was made about it.

Now, this is the second year that I have participated in red my lips. I still often felt like my lips were too bright some days and I was getting stares I didn’t really want. Some days I just wanted to rub it off. Some days it felt like it was my tattoo of strength. It gave me a little bit of confidence on the days I felt like I had none. I was able to open up dialogue with people who commented on the cherry red color.

This year it was something that has allowed me to heal.  The difference between year one and two is that last year was showing solidarity for everyone who had experienced some form of sexual assault and this year I have been going through the healing process from my own experience. Something I never thought would leave such an impact on my life. 

Red My Lips and Voices of Hope has reminded me over and over that I am not alone and that there are people out there that are willing to listen, that every story is different, but that doesn’t make any story any less significant, and that an untold story can not heal.  I went months keeping it to myself because I didn’t feel it was big enough to say anything and that people would dismiss it as not being something real.  When I was feeling defeated I could look through the Instagram tags and see people from all over the world wearing red lips, people hoping to make a change and to spread awareness. I saw solidarity.

I started to see myself as less of a bystander and more actively fighting for a change. When out with friends I would see guys making unsolicited advances towards girls. I no longer could watch it happen, I found myself asking these girls if they needed someone to help get them away. Something I would have never done had I not known I had the support from organizations like Red My Lips and Voices of Hope.  I found myself speaking to many more people about why I was wearing the red lips. In feeling like I was making a difference I was changing my own mind in the way I was handling the pain I was feeling inside.

Last year I thought wearing my red lips and posting pictures are what would make the difference and this year I am seeing that it is much more than that. It is a change in language, it is being kind to strangers, and it is being a listening ear for anyone that needs it. We tend to fall short in these areas. Even with education, instead of teaching how not to get raped why aren’t we teaching respect to others bodies? Why do we ask questions about what the victim was doing or wearing instead of just listening to them?

My challenge to everyone as Red My Lips ends this April is to continue to make a difference and not wait until next April to show support.  We can change rape culture. It starts with us and what comes off our lips.

#ConsentCampaign17

Consent Campaign Poster

 

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is just a few days away and has many of you know, Voices of Hope is launching their Consent Coaster Campaign. We even wanted a way to have individuals to be able to participate even if they did not get to a restaurant in Pittsburgh that had coasters, so voila, wristbands!

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The wristbands were developed to match one of the coasters saying, “There are no blurred lines when it comes to consent.” The wristband simply states, “No blurred Lines.” This could mean so many things so we wanted to ensure that those who were equipping themselves with bracelets had an a few guidelines on consent so that when asked, they could educate those inquiring.

We are sure though you are all more than capable of doing so but below is an overview of consent.

Sexual Assault has recently become a hot topic in the last view years, especially on college campuses. Although, through education and awareness, we can make a change. Personally, I believe that if we educate our children at an early age on the understanding of consent and sexual violence, we could decrease the issue tremendously.

Consent is a simple word, really, it is. Consent is the permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. Honestly, we consent to a lot of things in our daily lives. For example, when is grade school, I had to ask the teacher permission to use the restroom, which is consenting to use the bathroom. When out somewhere with a crowd of people and you want to sit at a stool at the bar, you ask the person next to that stool, “Is it ok to sit here?” You get consent from another to sit next to them, or no this seat is taken.

Consent is in everything we do, so why would it be different when it comes to sex. Yes means yes, and no means no. And if you are unable to give a proper consent, it is no. Silence is not a yes.

Consent it about respect. We need to respect and be kind to one another. So why the phrase, “No Blurred Lines.” When it comes to consent, it is black and white. No matter what state you are in. There is no in between. Back in 2013, there was a song by Robin Thicke called Blurred Lines, which actually was an extremely popular hit, but caused controversy due to some of the verbiage. Please check out our previous blog post on it here.

 

So when someone asks you, “No blurred lines, what does that mean?” Here are some good responses:

  1. Consent is a loud and resounding yes. It is as black and white as it seems, no blurred lines.
  2. Consent is a process. Even though you consented to something to last week, doesn’t mean that this Saturday you don’t need to ask to do something.
  3. Consent is mutual. Both parties need to be fully aware.
  4. Consent is respect. We use consent in our everyday life, and it should be any different when it comes to sex.

Thank you to all of those who are participating and if you would like a wristband, let us know! We have some left!

 

Lastly, here are some other ways to get involved in sexual assault awareness month:

  1. Wear red lipstick and show solidarity for survivors. www.redmylips.org
  2. Stop victim blaming.
  3. Stop rape jokes, and stand up for what is right when you hear one.
  4. Be an active bystander.
  5. Participate in #30daysofsaam (See the graphic below)
  6. Go to any of the locations that are distributing consent coasters. Check them out at www.voices-of-hope.org
  7. Make sure to share with Voices of Hope when you wear your consent bracelet or see a coaster!!!!

Now get out there and change a culture!!!!

30daysofsaam

Emma’s Story – Why she educates on Consent

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If you would have asked me my freshman year of high school if I was or had ever been in an abusive relationship, my answer would have been a very confident “no”. At the age of 15, my first real relationship consisted of fight after fight with a whole lot of manipulation. At such a young age, couples should be fighting about which movie to see or who’s parent is going to pick them up, not how much control one can have over the other. I was so set on the fact that since he never hit me, or never even laid a finger on me unless I told him it was okay, that everything was perfectly normal. Now let me tell you something that took me years to figure out: Just because he doesn’t hit you, doesn’t mean he doesn’t abuse you. I can’t even tell you how many times I heard “it’s because I care”. Disclosure: this actually meant “it’s because I need to control you.” He might not have hit me, but he didn’t let me leave the house unless he knew where I was going. I was directed to text him who I was with, where I was going, when I was leaving, and how long I would be there. He might not have hit me, but he got mad at me when I dyed my hair purple because he didn’t like it. My hair. My decision. And HE was upset over my decision on what to do with my hair. He might not have hit me, but when I chose to hang out with my friends over him, I didn’t hear from him for the rest of the day. He might not have hit me, but when he saw my location on Facebook said somewhere that wasn’t where I lived (even if it said I was at my dad’s house an hour away), he would throw a fit. He might not have hit me, but he convinced me every friendship I had was toxic, except his of course. After these fights usually followed the “It’s because I care” or “I’m just kidding”. If anything is taken away from this, I want you all to know it’s not because they care and nothing is funny about abuse. It is because they have a need to control what they think belongs to them. You do not belong to anyone. You are brighter than the darkness they try to fill you with.

 

If it weren’t for my loving, compassionate parents who never doubted my strength and the friends who never gave up on me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t have had the courage to leave him. My story is nothing compared to what some brave, strong women go through on a day-to-day basis. It is for these women I do what I do. It took me a long time to realize the relationship was toxic and controlling, but I vowed I would stand up to talk with anyone who will listen about what consent is, what abuse is, and what we can do to prevent it. I’m still learning myself, but everyone has to start somewhere. Making this vow is what brought me to Kristine and Voices of Hope, and my Sexual Assault Prevention seminar at my university. One of the first events our seminar held was a “Love and Support Day”. The campaign had everything from self-care to teaching about consent. The most important part of the event was the “Free Hugs” campaign. I stood in the middle of the very busy University Student Union and asked for consent for hugs. I then briefly explained to them what consent was and the actions we can take as a community. Watching people’s eyes light up when they got asked for a hug and understood what the meaning behind it was might have been the most rewarding part of all. My heart aches for those who do not see their worth because of the way someone else has treated them. To the women who do not believe in themselves or believe that someone else has control over them, this one is for you. You are not alone. Day by day I promise to make every effort to teach other’s about what consent is, why relationships can be toxic, and how we can stick up for ourselves and other’s around us.

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It’s all about Respect

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I am not one to talk about politics, nor am I one to really get into politics until it gets closer to the election date and then do my research. I don’t talk about politics, not because I don’t have an opinion, but rather just don’t like to talk about it.

Being a president in today’s age has become more “main stream” or maybe the more appropriate term would be “popular.” I feel as if the president is more often present on late night talk shows and featured in every other magazine.

As soon as it came down to our final 2 candidates, with social media, and the news, I have seen Clinton and Trump everywhere. I’ll be honest…I am tired of it. I am also tired of seeing people bickering on Facebook and judging one another by whom they publicly support. As a friend of mine said on Facebook today, “Remember when we used to love each other, respect each other? Remember those days? Now our political positions define who we are and that my friends and family is very sad. Let’s get back to loving and respecting each other. I love my family and friends even if I don’t agree with their positions on every issue. I will NOT define you by your political affiliation but by how you treat me and others and I would expect the same in return.”

Isn’t this all that we can ask for?

Personally, the cause most important to me both before and after this election is being an advocate for those who are/were victims of sexual violence. I know that both candidates have done things that have come off in not supporting advocacy for sexual violence survivors. (On a side note: I feel the media ONLY shows what they want us to see and misconstrue the stories, so do we really know everything or are we just seeing what they want us to see?)

The latest example of sexually charged rhetoric arrived with the recently surfaced 11 year old video of Donald Trump bragging about grabbing women by the pussy.

I was inspired to write this post after seeing a meme today that read: “If American women are so outraged at Trump’s use of naughty words, who the hell bought 80 million copies of 50 shades of Grey?” What offends me isn’t the use of naughty words such as pussy, but rather the way they were used in a sentence. It was implied that there was no consent, which in turn is assault. (And even though I read 50 Shades of Grey, I have a completely different opinion on it, but that is for another time.)

Another phrase being thrown around is “locker room banter.” Here is the deal, at least the way I see it…the rape jokes, the comments made along the lines of, “Oh year I tapped that” or I’ll just go up and grab her p****,” implies that women are only a piece of meat meant to be objectified at will by men. Maybe it’s time for us to speak up when rape jokes are made or stepping into the conversation to stop it when a woman is being disrespected. It’s steps like these that will change our culture…and this vocalization not only goes for women, but men as well. As mentioned above, it’s time to go back to loving and respecting each other.

Telling rape jokes in public is something which is not only polarizing, but can be harmful, as you never know which people around you may have been sexually assaulted. I know that personally, for me, when someone says, “Oh my team got raped on the field,” or some form of similar joke, my mind immediately goes to what happened to me 12 years ago.

…And it’s officially 12 years, as today marks 12 years. 12 years ago, I was at home on my parent’s couch thinking how everything has fallen apart and I could never move forward. I have come a long way in those 12 years, but please don’t be the person that triggers my memories or any other survivor of sexual assault.

Personally, if I had my way, Joe Biden would be president because of everything thing he has done for violence against women and sexual assault survivors…but that’s not an option during this election. So let’s spend a little more time loving and respecting one another and a little less time making offhanded, hurtful comments.

Purge Your Feelings

Did you know that 60% of people with Bulimia have experienced sexual abuse?

After encountering this statistic, I learned that the 60% of those with Bulimia were sexually assaulted as children. According to EDreferral, “The connection is guilt, shame, anesthesia, self-punishment, soothing, comfort, protection and rage.

Everyone goes through different things throughout their life  and things start for any number of different reasons. I am highly interested in the topic because I had a relationship with ED. From 2002, until around 2008, ED and I dated on and off pretty regularly. ED was frustrating. ED was always there telling me that my feelings weren’t real, that I shouldn’t have to feel pain, hurt, sadness or frustration, and sometimes even happiness.  ED told me I was fat. It told me that I would never be a dancer. It told me that only those who treated me poorly were right for me.  ED was my eating disorder, Bulimia.

ED and I met the summer of 2002, shortly after my grandmother passed away. I was lonely and sad and I was looking for an escape from this pain. ED found me, took me in his arms and said, “You don’t need to feel this way.” He told me that I could eat my feelings and then just get rid of them all. And so it began. ED and I would binge on junk food and then all those feelings that I just ate would go right down the toilet shortly thereafter. Soon my family started to catch on to our relationship and I had to find better ways to hide it. I would go to public restrooms to purge instead of doing so at home. Sometimes I would purge up so many feelings that my throat would hurt, or I would lose electrolytes and need to replenish. Even though ED pushed me, I was in control.

I have to say, that when I was violated sexually that ED just became worse. ED taunted me around food. Sometime ED made me believe that people in my life were taunting me and pushing to eat just one more thing…not my friends, more so acquaintances. ED pushed me through all my failed attempts at finding a man. At one point, I became engaged, and my eating disorder was still relevant in my life. Certain things would spark ED to come out. Such as arguments with my fiance, stress from school, stress from work, among other things. Leftovers in the fridge would call me just because they were there(I could never have leftovers in the house). I tried to quit, but ED got the best of me, especially since my fiancé didn’t understand it. Finally, during the summer of 2008, something changed. I finally broke it off with ED. I wish I could say that I quit cold turkey, but I honestly can’t remember. I also think it helped that I parted ways with my fiance.

Since 2008, I have not spoken or dealt with ED. I have come to terms that I can splurge, but don’t have to purge. I have finally learned to deal with my feelings head on. These feelings still include the ones listed above: Guilt, shame, anesthesia, self-punishment, soothing, comfort, protection and rage. I have replaced the need to purge with other things. My husband helps me with the soothing and comfort. Guilt, shame, and rage I deal with head on. Most days I make it through these feelings, even if I am fighting tears.

According to nationaleatingdisorder.org, Bulimia, in particular, has been connected to trauma as a means of self-protection. This is because the binge/purge cycle of behaviors seem to reduce awareness of thoughts and emotions as a means of escape for several of the emotions that may accompany traumatic experiences such as anger, guilt, need to cleanse oneself of the experience and refocus, stress, need for control and predictability, and need for personal space.

If you know of anyone who is suffering from an eating disorder, sexual violence, or both, please know that there are positive steps they can take to help them recover. Please check outwww.nationaleatingdisorders.org for more information.
#beavoice

Why I LOVE Britney Spears

As many of you that know me, know that I absolutely love Britney Spears. However, it might seem odd that I am posting about this on my blog that is about educating on sexual violence. Well….I will explain. BUT I am going to have to go all the way back to fall of 1998.

I remember it was around 6:30AM one fall day, and I was just getting up to get ready for school. I had the TV in my room set so that when I needed to wake up it would turn on. As it turned on that morning, and I rolled over to see a music video was starting. And it was this one.

Baby one more time. For some reason I hit the record button on the remote, and it was saved forever on the VHS in my VCR(wow, what old school terms.) I fell in love with this song, and this video. I immediately had to go into school and tell all my friends about. And it started.

I began learning all the words, and the dance moves to “…Baby One More Time.” I bought the album when it came out in January of 1999. I hung the poster that came with it in my locker. So when the boys in my class saw I did that, they went and got their own posters and hung them in their lockers. But the boys had to take theirs down, while I got to keep mine up. I guess it was too young for 7th grade boys???? (Mind you, I went to a Catholic grade school.)

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I learned the dance moves to “Sometimes,” and “Crazy.” I watched every MTV special. At the time this was going on I was in 7th and 8th grade. SOOO, that meant we had grade school dances. I went to our Catholic school dances, and performed the dance moves when the song came on. It got to the point, at one dance, I actually had a girl from another Catholic school come out in “School girl uniform” aka “…Baby one more time” video outfit to mock me.

I remember sitting on my living room floor patiently waiting for the above concert special to come one. Still using it to add moves to “Crazy.” But if your like me you know you can take the original version of “Crazy” and add those dance moves to “Crazy(the Stop Remix).

I took the “Crazy” choreography to dance competitions, I did them at birthday parties, I think I even did it on a ≥cruise at a talent competition they had.

The spring of 2000 came around. I was finishing up 8th grade and getting ready to move to the Catholic high school in the fall. May of 2000, the “Oops, I did it again” album came out.

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I remember specifically, one of my friend’s mom went to the store and brought us copies of the cd at lunch. I brought my walkman just so I could listen to it. I remember I cried when I heard “Lucky” for the first time. This was because I wanted to be famous. I wanted to be a singer/dancer just like Britney Spears. Deep down, I knew I didn’t have the voice, but that’s what I wanted to do. I remember specifically a good friend from Kindergarten wrote in my 8th grade yearbook that she couldn’t wait to see my name in lights and I had her full support. I prayed and prayed that I could become a singer/dancer so I didn’t have to go to high school because I was scared. So that summer, my mom took me to studio and I recorded a demo. I sang “Baby, one more time.” I don’t think I did anything with that demo but I did it. I remember taking the cassette of it to my cousins and playing it for her. I was so excited!!!  That summer, I also got to see Britney Live on her “Oops, I did it again” tour.

So I ended up going to high school. And I still loved Britney. Although, things came up that took me away from that original love. I started having crushes, and dating. I got involved in a lot of school activities, like band and drama club. I still would watch all the award shows and TV specials. That never left.

I remember when she began to change her image from bubble gum pop to sex pot.

I still learned the moves, and was into the change, but she was everything like I thought in grade school. And the thought of being that singer/dancer began to drift further and further away. I was more concerned with my friends and boys. But I was pretty innocent when it came to boys. My personalty evolved in high school just did Britney, her image and her music. Another big factor that came into play for was bulimia. I really became insecure about my body and in 2002, I began a relationship with an eating disorder. This was another reason Britney faded into the background.

In late 2003, she came out with “In the Zone.” I was really digging this album and the summer after I graduated high school, I was suppose to see her in concert. She cancelled due to a knee injury. And shortly after that I started college.

Then I was raped.

I reverted back to Britney for help. She had different things going on. Like getting married to Keven Federline, and their reality show. She had a greatest hits album come out. And I found a friend at school that loved her just as much as I did. We went and bought the dvd with all her videos and watched them all. We even made a music video to her song “Do Something.”  I started to make videos of myself, of my friends, and even edited Britney spears videos to remixes.

I was hiding my feelings in this form of art. It really became therapeutic for me. Especially when I put myself in the videos. I was able to project an image of myself that I never really showed.

From 2004 to 2007 is a little hazy for me because Britney had a lot going on in her life. She had two little boys, and divorced Kevin Federline. And then things went down hill. During this time in my life, I had moved to a different college and got engaged. I thought I had it all together, and when I did, Britney didn’t. She was going through her own personal struggle while having it photographed and video taped. Every move she made was documented by the paparazzi. I had fear that this might end tragically. I continued to follow her, but not follow because the “hot topic” in the tabloids she had become but because I felt for her. It made me realize that we all are human, we all have faults, we all make mistakes. You truly cannot judge a book by it’s cover because no matter how the outside looks, you have no idea what someone has been through. I felt a connection in a sense that one I had this horrible thing happen to me, and then I went on somewhat of a downward spiral and could totally relate on that sense. I also realized that the dream I had when I was 12ish….there was no way I would every want to be a singer/dancer. Especially with the price that came with it. No personal space.

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Even during her so called “breakdown,” she was still able to release music and came out with her album “Blackout.” I remember hearing the lead single from this album “Gimme More” and absolutely loved it. It was such a different sound for her. But with all of her personal struggles, promotion did not come with this album. Although she even released a second single from it called “Piece of Me.” Which truly summed up her life at the current moment.

This video was shot November 2007. A few months later she ended up being hospitalized and after she was released things began to look up.

All I remember from this time in her life, is I wanted to root for her. I wanted to be the fan that stood by her in her time of need. Her music was there in my time of need, and I still was going through that time when she released Blackout, so it helped.

The year of 2008, she began to turn things around.

She started to come back in the spotlight and realized a documentary called “For the Record.” The clip above is from it. And yes, I cried watching it. What she says in the clip is how felt especially right after being a victim. I let my guard down a lot and ended up getting hurt and taken advantage. This happened for quite a few years, but I wasn’t under the spotlight.

She released an album that year, “Circus,” and in 2009 embarked on her first tour since 2004….unless you count the brief stint when she toured the House of Blues under the code name “M & M’s.”

My best Friend, Julie, and I had plans to see her live when she came to Pittsburgh and I couldn’t wait. The first time since 2000!!! I remember I did not want to watch any of tour prior to going but I had to check out Piece of me being performed live for the first time.

The concept with the cage was amazing and fit the song perfectly. Of course I cried. LOL it was so exciting to see Britney turn her life a round in a positive direction. I knew I would be able to get there some day. At this point, I had finally kicked the eating disorder but still had days of depression and darkness.

During this time, I still worked on videos and I made an amazing 40 minute megamix of Britney music. Here is the first 10 minutes……but pretty much my favorite part, especially when “Overtime” and “Lucky” cross paths.

Lets skip ahead to 2011. Britney released her next album, “Femme Fatale,” and I was in heaven. This was the year, I truly learned to love myself, and Britney’s new music was perfect. She was going on tour that year, and I decided you know what, I am getting meet and greet packages. So Julie, and I planned an adventure. We were going to see her in DC and Philly. At Philly, we had backstage passes for a tour and to meet her. And at DC, we had backstage passes. What an amazing weekend. To see something come full circle. To meet the person that made the bubble gum music of my time of innocence and to have both of us go through something that no one should have to go,even though both were different. We even got to meet her personal assistant Fe. I knew who Fe was since 1998, she was the school teacher in the “Baby One more Time” video.

I know I don’t know Britney personally, but I have always felt a connection, and even though I have through a lot of things, there are still times I will have thoughts that my rape was my fault, and I try to think positively, and put some Britney music on because I know deep down the human spirit is resilient and Britney and I are proof of that.