Coffee & Consent – Episode 3

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This is our second post on our Coffee & Consent Campaign and tonight, I am honored to introduce a friend of mine, Kristina Marinkovich. She was interviewed for our video chat, which is at the bottom of the page, but also was able to answer a few additional questions. Check out her answers below!

What changes do you hope come from #MeToo?

​I hope that people, men and women alike, can find the courage and confidence to come forward ​
if and when they are ever a survivor of sexual abuse. I think that with the #MeToo movement people who have been affected realize that they are not alone, and it is okay to come forward
​without facing repercussions from their abuser. Hopefully, this will drive the message that sexual assault/harassment of any kind is not okay and the consequences are life altering for all involved.
Now that so many people see scope of the problem, how do we deal with how repugnant our beliefs are?
​Now that people see how big the problem of sexual abuse/assault is, we cannot ignore is any more and go back to turning a blind eye to it. It has taken years of people getting abused in silence, and now it is not acceptable. People need to be education on what consent it and think of what it means to them. I think we need to focus on educating people about consent and that it is okay to say something if someone does not obey the consent. ​
When someone you know or even love is accused of doing a terrible thing, how will you reconcile your ethics with you affection?
​Unfortunately, I do know people who have been accused of doing terrible things, and it is not easy to deal with. ​I have tried to keep an open mind and understand why they did the things that they did as well as understand that there are two sides to every story, but it is hard. I don’t think that you can ever see the accused in the same light ever again no matter how hard you try. There will always been unanswered questions, and you’ll always be walking on eggshells in future conversations. It is hard to accept matters for what they are, but every person reacts to situations differently and you can’t really predict how you will handle something like this until you actually have to face it.
If someone came and told you that they have been victimized, in any way, what would you do?
​I would encourage them to report what happened. If someone were to confide in me, I would be the shoulder for them to lean on and stay with them every step of the way. This process isn’t something that a survivor should have to face alone.
One of Voices of Hope’s campaign is called #BeAVoice. How can you be a voice for those that feel they are silenced?
​I work with a lot of young people in many different roles, and I also serve as a role model at Ms. Universal. It is important for me to emphasize to everyone that you have to be strong for yourself no matter how difficult it may be. If you need someone to stand with you, they will, but they can’t do that until you stand first. No one should be forced into doing something that they do not want to do. It is not okay for you to feel uncomfortable in any situation. If it doesn’t feel good, it is not right, and you need to remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible. I feel that I do a good job in keeping an open door policy to let those who I work with know that I am there for them and available to them if there ever need someone in their corner to #BeAVoice.
Kristina Marinkovich is a lifelong resident of Johnstown, PA where she is secretary of the YWCA of Greater Johnstown’s board of directors, a founding member and treasurer of The Stiletto Network, W.I.S.E., serves as Chairperson for the Cambria-Somerset outstanding Young Women Scholarship Program, and an active volunteer at her church, St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church, where she is the secretary of the Circle of Serbian Sisters and vice president of the choir. Kristina also teaches dance at Le Dance Academie in Salix, serves as the musical choreographer for Greater Johnstown and Conemaugh Valley School Districts, and works with the Conemaugh Township High School Class and Taste Marching Band. Currently, Kristina holds the title of Ms. Universal 2017 where she was crowned in London, England in international competition. She has had many opportunities afforded to her so far throughout her reign and has continuously promoted her platform, H.EA.L.T.H.Y. -Helping Everyone Achieve a Lifestyle To a Healthy You, over the past two years as Ms. US Universal 2016 and now as Ms. Universal. Every month Kristina features recipes from her cookbook, “H.E.AL.T.H.Y. Eats” on WTAJ’s “Central PA Live”, and all proceeds from cookbook sales will be used to purchase stationary bikes to be donated to area schools as part of a national “Read and Ride” program. Kristina has also extended her platform on an international level, through her work with Lifeline Humanitarian Organization, the philanthropy organization of Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia that is dedicated to helping orphans of Serbia. As Ms. US Universal, Kristina spearheaded a fundraiser in Johnstown, “A Night in Serbia”, in which the Crown Prince and Princess of Serbia attended and over $7,000 was raised for Lifeline. Kristina is always looking for opportunities to share her platform, serve as a public speaker, and give back to her community.
#metoo #Timesup #Coffee&consent #BeAvoice
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Coffee & Consent – Episode 1

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April kicks off Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and in honor of the month, Voices of Hope has developed a campaign around short candid conversations about consent called Coffee & Consent.

The goal of Coffee & Consent is to educate the public on what consent is, #metoo, #timesup, and other issues around sexual, and domestic violence and sexual harassment.

Today is the first episode and it features Cathy Hughes. Catherine Hughes is an innovative storyteller and community strategist, currently employed as a social entrepreneur with Wesley Family Services. Inspired by raising a son with autism, now 20, she has built a career providing comprehensive support and passionate advocacy for children, families and their surrounding communities. She is a servant leader who cultivates relationships with grace and grit to create, enhance, and promote services and programs that transform lives. She also maintains a blog, The Caffeinated Advocate, and is currently working on her first book.

Cathy took the time to answer all of my questions, including those that didn’t make it into the video chat. They are below.

 

***

I’m so thankful for the opportunity to participate in the Coffee and Consent campaign. As like many chapters of my unique and roller coaster life story, the #metoo and #timesup movements touch me both personally and professionally in deep ways. Yet again, I find my two worlds wildly colliding. However, this “crash” affords me the space to use my experience to provide help and hope, empowering individuals to find the strength to use their own voice in powerful ways.

I recently participated in Kristine Irwin’s Coffee and Consent conversation, but I asked if I could submit a guest blog to provide my answers to all of her potential questions. Who knew that coming across her name and simple participant request on the Global Sisterhood’s Facebook page would give me another opportunity to share powerful little-known statistics, but also allow me to come forward publicly in full for the first time ever about one of the darkest experiences of my life?

 

I am abundantly grateful for the chance to contribute to positive change in our world.

***

 

1. What is consent to you?

Consent to me is your willingness to participate in something (an activity, a situation) and your personal grant of permission or “stamp of approval” if you will, to do so.

2. When do you feel consent should be taught?

Consent and teaching someone that their voice matters and is valid should be taught – and repeatedly – as early as possible, when an individual is cognitively able to do so.

3. With #MeToo and #TimesUp, what impact do you feel they have made and how have they impacted you?

This movement touches me far beyond what most people see throughout print and social media. I am deeply appreciative of the fierce commitment for society to stand united and say to the world that we who have been victims, or who have directly witnessed abuse and harassment, have had absolutely enough and we will no longer accept such action or lack thereof.

Both personally and professionally, I myself have been impacted by harassment, belittlement and victimization.

My best friend is a domestic abuse survivor.

I have a son with autism who has been bullied and who struggled during adolescence with understanding his physical and emotional body changes as well as societal norms, expectations, and his human rights. This is something too often missed with people who have diagnoses, disabilities and exceptional challenges and that we as a society are not nearly as aware of as they need be. It is a strong message I wish to send to your readers.

4. What changes do you hope come from #MeToo?

 

#MeToo should not and cannot be viewed by society as just “the movement for women.” I do not at all nor would I ever wish to downplay that women have been unjustly and cruelly victimized for far too long, however.

I’m one of them.

I was sexually assaulted at the age of 15 by a classmate who thought I “owed him” because he paid $20 for my ticket and $10 for a corsage to a Valentine’s Day dance. I don’t remember everything that happened that evening as there were moments I have blocked completely. I don’t know that I would want to remember. Days later, he became angry after a confrontation, choking me against a locker after our literature class. The principal, who I learned was his father’s best friend, said to me “You must be a tough girl to get over.” My voice didn’t matter to him, so I figured it wouldn’t matter to the police.

In a recent previous job, I was referred to as one of “the girls” frequently by a very chauvinistic male. I found myself retreating to my dark childhood memory of being attacked.

What I feel compelled to stress, especially as the mother of someone with an autism diagnosis as well as a community advocate, is that we cannot stop with women. Victimization is simply not limited to women. There are women and men alike with disabilities, diverse challenges or different sexual preferences and possibly impaired thinking due to a lack of understanding of their bodies and a lack of understanding about consent.

They may not understand or have been taught how to have a healthy relationship. They may be desperate to engage in any relationship, safe or unsafe. They may not understand sexuality. They may not recognize red flags, warning signs and/or be able to accurately interpret the thoughts and feelings of the other person they are interacting with at that time. Specifically with people who have autism or an intellectual disability, it is an absolute myth that they have no interest in relationships and/or sexual intercourse. By assuming that they are asexual beings and not teaching skills and knowledge that do not innately occur, society further sets them up to be victims of crime and assault. That is an unforgivable disservice.

We need to teach and preach to each and every individual walking this planet that all relationships should be healthy and safe. People deserve that. They are worthy of that. In my current role, I have the opportunity to promote a curriculum to schools and organizations to provide education that encourages prevention. Individuals with developmental disabilities are seven times more likely to be victims of an assault. This content is critical.

 

5. Now that so many people see scope of the problem, how do we deal with how repugnant our beliefs are?

Quite frankly, I don’t believe society sees the full scope of the problem. I believe that we need to continue to push forward and we are nowhere near there yet. We are making progress. But by no means would I say with confidence that “society sees the scope of the problem” and how widespread it is.

 

6. When someone you know or even love is accused of doing a terrible thing, how will you reconcile your ethics with your affection?

If someone I loved (especially a family member) committed an act of violence or crime, I would love them despite what they say or do and they would be a part of my heart. That wouldn’t change. I believe we would need to examine the root cause not to necessarily excuse but to understand the “why” and ensure justice for both the victim, the perpetrator, and our community at large. We can all contribute to positive change and every situation affords us an opportunity to learn. We can always do better, and we need to do better.

7. If someone came and told you that they have been victimized, in any way, what would you do?

For starters, two words: “I’m here.” First and foremost, I would want to establish trust. If that person did not feel that they could fully trust in me, I would encourage them to reach out to another trusted individual in order to have their voice heard, to recover, and to reach out to the right channels that will enable everyone to move through and past the situation that occurred.

 

8. One of Voices of Hope’s campaign is called #BeAVoice. How can you be a voice for those that feel they are silenced?

Part of being a voice is being an equally strong and active listener. I encourage people to listen – not just hear – people’s stories. I want people to listen to stories from women and men of many walks of life who face any number of challenges to gain understanding, clarity, and know then how to effectively use their voice for the greater good.

Being a voice means speaking out and fearlessly, and then empowering those who have been silent to use their own voice (verbal and non-verbal) to build a more powerful sound.

Together, let’s teach the need, the value, and the worthiness of healthy and safe relationships in our world, for all. All voices matter.

***

Cathy, you truly are a strong and amazing individual. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and ideas with Voices of Hope. If you have a moment please check out http://healthyrelationshipscurriculum.org?

 

 

Check out the video interview below!

#Metoo #coffee&consent #timesup #beavoice #voicesofhope

Disappointment

“The root of disappointment comes from holding expectations.”

I don’t know about you, but the disappointment has a huge impact on my life.

It always has, even before the rape and after.

Growing up, I never wanted to disappoint my family(Mom and dad etc), and now I still don’t want to disappoint my family(Mom, dad, Husband, kids etc.).

I know that no one is perfect, including myself and I do not know if this weighs on me so because I let the world around me influence me, but when I know I disappointed someone, that is when I become my own worst enemy.

And it can be as something as small as buying the wrong thing at the grocery store, I may not have disappointed the people around me, but I feel like I have and then the personal beatings follow.

When I woke up in that hospital room, on October 10th, I knew I was huge disappointment. When the nurse told me I was raped, I don’t really feel like I knew what that meant but I immediately felt the feelings of shame and guilt, and knew that my family would be disappointed.

What I didn’t know is, is that they would have sympathy and compassion for me, and not so much disappointment. But try telling me that then, and I wouldn’t believe you.

With that said, when it came to my parents in 2004, it was a rough last few months of that year for all of us. It took us all a long time to openly discuss the topic, especially with my dad. So this week, I wanted to share a video of my parents and show a glimpse to how they felt. Check it out below.

Also there is one week left to pre-order the book!!! Do it here: https://www.voices-of-hope.org/the-book

Two different Worlds

Today.
Today marks the day that my book is officially available for preorder.
This is scary for me. This is exciting for me. This is absolutely one of the most nerve-wracking, terrifying moments of my life.
This book has been in the works since 2005. I began the process about a year after I was raped. I didn’t know at the time that it might eventually get to this point, but I wrote and I wrote and I wrote.
I wrote down everything I could remember from September 2004 until September 2005. Just to try to remember the details. I wrote in notebooks during class, while in college. I wrote on scrap pieces of paper when a memory would pop up. I wrote on post-its.
Unfortunately, because my writing process was not very organized, I lost some of my writing within the last 13 years. I wanted to write everything out because I knew there would be things I would forget, and even things I wanted to forget but possibly remind myself later in hopes of helping someone else. The biggest take away from all of my writing is looking back prior to the rape, it is almost look at a completely different world. It’s like there barrier that blocks both of the worlds ever meeting. I lost my innocence and since then my world was turned upside down.

In all my years of healing, I found things that have helped me move forward. Things that gave me hope for the future. Things that gave me more positive thoughts and feelings than the negative thoughts and feelings. However, I still have moments of weakness.
This book is covers both the topic of my rape and the eventual healing process. There are things that some people may not know about me and that alone is scary, especially because this is a new outlet for me to share my story. I still get the overwhelming feelings of shame and guilt from my rape…that maybe it was my fault, and someone reading this book that doesn’t know me, or maybe doesn’t know me well, or even one of my closest friends, will judge me. They will judge me and say (maybe not to my face) that it was my fault. They will judge about my healing process and how I handled it. All of these ideas terrify me.
I need to take a deep breath, and not let the anxiety of all of this take over.
In the words of a Daniel Tiger Song (courtesy of my 2 year old son), “Take a deep breath and count to 4.”
::Inhale::
::Exhale::
1…2…3…4…That helps somewhat. When my son does this he immediately says, “I feel better.” I wish my mood shifted as quickly as his does.
I need to remember to practice what I preach. “It is never your fault. You were the victim of a horrible crime. IT IS NEVER YOUR FAULT.”
I believe those words 100%. I have said it to hundreds and hundreds of people. I have spoken to survivors and continue to tell them this consistently…but sometimes when it comes to myself, I have trouble believing it.
But I will. I will believe it. Sometimes.
So for those who are interested in reading this book, those who are pre-ordering, or even coming to the book launch on February 28th, I ask you, please share the pre-order link with everyone you know.
Because I can guarantee there is someone in your life that has said #MeToo and will need this book.
Preorder the book at https://www.voices-of-hope.org/shop.

A Survivor’s Story

n-GRIEF-628x314 Man on the edge of pier.

Being a survivor of sexual violence, you feel alone. You might even have a great support system but you still can feel alone.

When I have done speaking engagements in the past, there have been some times when I have had survivors come up to me and thank me for sharing my story because they have gone through something similar. If I am ever feeling alone, at that moment, I know I am not. I know that I am not the only that this has happened to. There are millions others that have gone through this.

Did you know that every 107 seconds that another American is sexually assaulted. That is just about 2 minutes. So for every hour in a day there is 30 people assaulted. That’s 720 people in a 24 hour period. That is disgusting and scary.

I read an article today that was about a sexual assault survivor, Sofia Karasek. She was in the film the hunting ground and also made a huge impact at the Oscars a few years ago with Lady Gaga and Joe Biden.

Sofia was sexually assaulted during her freshman year of college while on a weekend retreat for a club she was part of. After she shares her story, she opens up as to how she felt about everything she has gone through up until most recent. The one thing that she said really struck me. “I would much rather have not met Lady Gaga or Brie Larson if it meant I didn’t have to experience what I have. We’re not lucky — we have survived and that’s why we were there.” I must say that is so true.

After I was assaulted, I was left on the side of the road, which I have no recollection. What would have happen if the woman who saw me did not call 911. Where would I be?  That piece is actually very difficult for me to imagine.

But when it comes down to it, Sofia, along with Gaga and Biden, and all of the other survivors truly make me feel not alone when it comes my rape. I hope what all the actions that survivors take to make a difference, and hopefully even what I do can help someone facing assault or rape realize they are not alone.

Check out Sofia’s story below.

Moving Survivor’s Story

Body Language – Where does Consent come in?

I was doing some research this past week, and I came across something interesting. Consent and Body Language. How do these two connect and do they?

The answer is a resounding YES. Consent and body language go hand in hand. And this is why. In intimate situations a lot of the communication is nonverbal. And some of these nonverbal cues can be smiling, nodding, etc. When you go on a first date with someone, your attempting to read body language to see if that person is “interested” in you, or wants that good night kiss, or is ok with you putting your arm around them.

Body language can be extremely misguiding, because the way one person perceives it, can be completely different then the way it was meant to be sent.

So think of it this way, your at the movies on a first date, and your thinking to yourself, do I make the first move. Do I put my arm around them, do I touch their leg? Oh, maybe the way they are looking at me now, makes it seems ok? But is it?

There are a lot of nerves that fly around on a first date too, so that can definitely misconstrue body language.

understanding-body-language

Let’s take all of that guessing out and just flat out ASK the question. Can I put my arm around you? Is it ok if I put my hand on your leg? And so forth. It may seem uncomfortable at first but you know what, your relationship will be built on open communication and trust.

Another interesting thought came from an article that I read this past week. Mtv did a survey on young men to see if the #MeToo campaign changed their behaviors and according to the study, it in fact did.

“According to the results, nearly 1 in 3 young men were concerned that something they had done in the past could be considered sexual harassment. Forty percent of the young men admitted that #MeToo had changed the way they act in potential romantic relationships. And 1 in 4 of the young people surveyed said they’ve noticed guys around them change their behavior since the #MeToo movement began.”

This just goes to show that #MeToo has pushed some major boundaries and it is beginning to shed a lot of light on something that used to be so dark.

So to conclude, both of these go hand in hand. It seems that young men are looking at their own behavior, and I am sure some women have as well. While taking the thought of the way that we handle relationships and making them open and honest and communicating appropriately, we can build a world where sexual and domestic violence and sexual harassment are a thing of the past.

To read the full article on the study that Mtv conducted go here.

 

#MeToo #BeAVoice #VoicesofHope #nonprofit #Pittsburghnonprofit #Consentcampaign18 @BeAVoice18

 

Healthy Communication

Although, I may not share my full book with my children until they are older, I still want to ensure I have healthy communication with them.

“I want my children to feel safe and secure and that the choices they make about their bodies should be respected.”

This year for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, The Nation Sexual Violence Resource Center’s(nsvrc) Campaign is all about embracing your voice.

One of those voices is educating your children that the choices they make about their body have a right to be respected.

The flyer that comes with their campaign walks one through what is Consent, ask for Consent, how to listen to your child’s answer, accept “no,” and how relationships and consent go together.

According to NSVRC, Consent means giving someone the choice about touch or actions and respecting the answer they give. They say practicing Consent is how you interact with kids teaches healthy communication and that their body belongs to them.

My son is 2 and half, and I haven’t had a conversation yet but one day while getting ready, I had a bath robe on and he thought it was funny to come over and to keep trying to open it. He knew I didn’t like it and that only made him want to do it more. I told him that I did not appreciate what he was doing and when he asked why, I said this was my body and you need to respect when I say no. Granted, I don’t think he got it then, but I hope soon enough he will.

Check the rest of the information from NSVRC below!!

Our book in the image above will be available for Pre-Order in February and will launch on March 5th! Check out http://www.voices-of-hope.org for updates!!!

Credit: http://www.nsvrc.org