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

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#Timesup

#timesup

Last night at the Golden globes was another pivotal point in the movement against sexual harassment, and sexual violence and assault.

Since the Harvey Winstein scandal broke out last year, many have come forward about their experience with a simple hashtag: #metoo. Since then an organization has sprouted out called #Timesup.

The website, http://www.timesupnow.com, says this it what it is all about, “TIME’S UP is a unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere. From movie sets to farm fields to boardrooms alike, we envision nationwide leadership that reflects the world in which we live. Powered by women, TIME’S UP addresses the systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace that have kept underrepresented groups from reaching their full potential. We partner with leading advocates for equality and safety to improve laws, employment agreements, and corporate policies; help change the face of corporate boardrooms and the C-suite; and enable more women and men to access our legal system to hold wrongdoers accountable.”

Last night at the Golden Globes, it was filled with individuals standing up in solidarity with the #timesupmovement. From everyone wearing black, and inviting viewers to share #whyiwearblack in support of the movement, to Natalie Portman’s one liner, “here are all-male nominees for best director,” from countless celebrities vocalizing the importance of the change and lastly Oprah Winfrey’s speech.

Entertainment weekly, http://www.ew.com, sums up her powerful speech to this, “
Winfrey began by recalling her experience watching Sidney Poitier win a Globe in 1964, the first ever received by a person of color. She moved on to defend the free press, fiercely call out sexual harassers all across the globe — telling them “their time has come” — and tell the story of Recy Taylor, who was raped by a group of white men in Alabama in 1944 and died 10 days ago.
Winfrey closed her magnificent speech with a promise for “the girls watching,” telling them, “a new day is on the horizon. And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure they are the leaders to take us to the time where nobody has to say ‘me too’ again.”

I can’t begin to contain my excitement with all of this positive change. I am as giddy as my 10 year old self watching the Spice Girls  music video for the first time, that my children are can have a chance to grow up in the world where they have a voice and their voice will be heard.

I have a have had so many conversations revolving how we had women in business have just put up with harassment for so long that it has become something that we are accustomed too and sometimes we have to put up with in order to keep our jobs. So to live in a world where all voices are heard is truly amazing.

However, it is still scary at the same time for me and I am sure others as well. Because this is a huge shift. As some that is still healing and will always be healing, there is a small piece of me that is scared. Not because my voice won’t be heard but for all attention sexual harassment and violence has gotten. For me sometimes seeing it so much can be a trigger for me. And has I said in last weeks blog post, I need to remember to take time for self-care. And know i can talk about sexual violence and domestic violence and harassment until my face turns blue but I need to know limits, know where that tipping point is so I don’t turn down the lane that brings up my anxiety and pain.

To that I commend all those that have been coming forward and to everyone and everyone please continue to practice self care.

#timesup

See Oprah’s speech below.

https://www.google.com/amp/ew.com/awards/2018/01/07/oprah-golden-globes-reactions/amp/

2018 – What will you bring?

Pittsburgh Newborn Photographer_-14

 

So it 9AM on January 1st 2018.  As look back on the past year so many amazing things have happen in both my professional and personal life. In this past year:

  • I gave birth to my beautiful daughter, Zella, and we expanded our little family to 4.
  • I celebrated my husband’s and I 4th year of marriage.
  • I stepped way out of my comfort zone and competed in a pageant and received 2nd runner up.

With Voices of Hope,

  • We launched the Consent Coaster Campaign.
  • Spoke at our first Student orientation
  • We had our most successful #BeAVoice this Holiday campaign. (If you are unfamiliar with either of those campaigns, check out our site at http://www.voices-of-hope.org.)

On a national level, many things happened for survivors of sexual violence and harassment including the #metoo movement, which hopefully means a better future for those that have experienced either one of these.

There were also many challenges this year, including

  • The emotional rollercoaster that comes with being pregnant.
  • Adjusting to having another child.
  • The fear of launching a brand new campaign and the anxiety that comes with it.
  • The ability to try to remember to care for myself and practice self care regularly. This can been extremely difficult because Voices of Hope revolves around changing our culture on sexual violence and domestic violence, it is easy for me to get too caught up in what I am doing to make changes and then end up crashing because it is too much for me to handle.
  • Remembering if I completed all my goals for the year. I never write down my goals, and honestly. I never know then if I met them.
  • And then the other challenge, what happens after #Metoo.

 

So as I sit here and think of my goals for this year, I wonder, will I meet them, will I be able to adjust going back to work full time, and will I be able to manage Voices of Hope while raising a family. My priorities are this: God, my husband, my kids, my family and friends and then Voices. I want to make a difference so my children can live in a world were survivors are believed but I need to ensure I follow my order.

So here are my personal and professional goals for the world to see and in December of this year, I will look back to see if I was able to accomplish them.

  1. Build my relationship with God, however, I see fit.
  2. Continue to blossom my relationship with my husband.
  3. Help my children learn and grow everyday.
  4. Remember to take time for myself, and practice self-care regularly.
  5. Launch my first book!!!
  6. Continue doing speaking engagements about sexual violence and domestic violence.
  7. More blog posts!!!!
  8. Making changes in our culture so that survivors are believed.

For my last two goals, I have left them pretty open ended due to the fact, that I will do what I can with what God gave me that way I am not disappointed if I don’t meet a specific number of some sort. I know no matter what I do, it will make some sort of difference no matter how big or how small.

Before I wrap up my post, though, I wanted to share some thoughts on the #Metoo movement. When it first happened, I loved it. I was so excited that all of these individuals were coming forward, men and women. However, after seeing it so often on the TV, I had to turn it off. This is where practicing self-care came in. I just couldn’t watch anymore. I also had a lot of great discussions around it, however, would get frustrated when people would make comments like, “Well every man that ever lived is going to be blamed.” Or when someone would discredit someone for coming forward and sharing their story. Most of the time, I feel too insecure, or not educated enough, to come up to a response to those statements, and I have my own personal  struggles when it comes to those being accused. In my last blog post, “I hope your somewhere praying,” I share some of these fears. Check it out here.

I will say this, and I know I will get judged for but here it is. For anyone that comes forward to say they have been a victim, believe them. Just because you are believing them doesn’t mean that you saying the accused needs to rot in hell and be banned from their lives. And don’t believe everything you read. I feel the news can over exaggerate things for both the victim and the accused. I need to take that advice because I get caught up in it when I try to prove people wrong. I just need to stick with what I believe and for someone coming out about what happen to them, even if it years later believe them. Lastly, all I ask is send prayers, positive vibes, or whatever you feel is respectful towards those that are coming forward and those that are accused, because they both will need it.

#voicesofhope #metoo #aftermetoo #webeleiveyou #consentcampaign18 #Pittsburghnonprofit #momboss #nonprofit

photo credit: Sweet Juniper Photography

 

 

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

vantage-points

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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