Being aware doesn’t mean you understand.

While recently scrolling through my news feed on Facebook, I came across a post which stated, “Why didn’t this happen when we were in school, and who were the ungrateful f**** that reported it.”

The above comment was attached to a news article about a math teacher that was being charged with sexual assault. In the article, which was attached to the post, it stated that “the students all claim one time in class she gave them all repeated Bl😵w Jobs & let them take turns hitting it in different positions.”

The post had some comments underneath, all by men, with comment such as, “Lucky Bastards”, or “I would have kept that to myself.”

I get that we all have a need for sexual intimacy in our lives. It’s in our nature. It’s the way that we procreate, but I found the post incredibly disturbing.

First off, the legal age for consent is 16 in most states. If two people that are 16 years and older engage in any sexual activity, they are fully capable of giving consent. However, if someone is under the age of 18 and a figure of authority has sex with them, even if the person under the age of 18 consents, it is still illegal.

Second, the reason this post on my news feed bothered me is the pure fact that the comments made it sound as if all of the men were okay with this happening! What if these students did not consent to these act?. Even if they did, the law states that it still illegal. As a woman who is an advocate for sexual violence, I find this whole situation bothersome. There are so many survivors of both sexual and domestic violence attempting to make a change and meanwhile there are people out there who condone sexual acts between teachers and their students.

Maybe I am just being too critical or picky, but when people throw around the term rape such as “that team got raped on the field.” I might still be in the conversation, but I don’t think rape is the appropriate term to use.

About 10 years ago, I attended a frat party, during my college days. I went alone, which was entirely my own fault, but I left without barely touching a drink. I left because I overheard a conversation between two guys discussing how they wanted to see who they could get the most drunk and sleep with. Why can’t you just go up to the girl you like, court her for a bit and then get to that level? Why do you have to get her drunk?

I also get upset when fans of sports teams create signs or t-shirts that joke about a particular scandal. For example, at a Penn State game, a recent sign that some Rutger’s fans used during tailgating of a child performing a sex act on an adult. Seriously?!

Now I am not saying that all frats are like that, and just because men commented on the article that was posted on Facebook doesn’t mean that it is just men saying things like this. It’s simply about being a little more understanding and aware.

However, being aware doesn’t always mean you understand.

You can sit there and say you are aware that sexual violence is an issue in our society, in our culture. But do you know why? Do you understand why? Do you know why so many victims choose to stay silent? Because of comments and images that I just stated above.

If people had a little more decency, maybe we would be able to move more progressively to a better culture.

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SAAM 2016/Redmylips

Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2016.

This was  a very busy month. We had two challenges this month.

  • To provide some form of content on the Voice’s of Hope facebook page, every single day, and we accomplished it.
  • To wear red lipstick everyday for the month of April.

Challenge was accepted and achieved. On top of that challenge, Voices of Hope had 4 speaking engagements. So it was a VERY busy month besides working a full time job and being a wife, and a mother. Surprisingly, I still went to bed each night almost shortly after my son, at 9PM.

All my red lips!

REd My Lips 2016

The first week of April, I had the opportunity to travel to WVU. It was very inspiring to see what the Peer Advocates there organized. The day I went to speak was pretty intense. My mom was driving down to meet me and go with me. I was going to being speaking front of a play the students had organized called “Hush.” I ended up sharing resources with the students prior to the play. I hope what I shared was beneficial and made an impact. I can’t begin to put into words how inspiring these students are and the effort they put forth to bring sexual assault awareness to their campus.

The second week, I was heading back to the University of Pitt for the 3rd time. THE 3RD TIME!! I really have enjoyed every time I have spoken at Pitt. They had a beautiful event the evening of of the 14th. I was so excited that one of my best friends, Julie Miller, was able to come and hear me speak. This was the first time she was able to. So it made the event even more special. They started with an introduction and then had three individuals read poems they wrote about sexual assault. Afterwards, they had a dance team performance a piece called “1 in 5.” I have to say that it was very triggering for me, the dance piece. It was a first time, in a long time that I had some anxiety. It felt like a huge stone was one top of my chest so that I couldn’t expand my lungs to breath. Next the Vice President, James, of the new group called “Students engaging in Conversations about Consent and Sexuality,” introduced me. I spoke about what happen to me, the struggles I dealt with during recovery, and how I turned a negative into a positive. I thanked them for inviting me back, and then was able to meet with an individual that works in the Title IX office.

The third week of April, I did not have any speaking engagements but that did not stop me from spreading the word. I received a teal ribbon from Pitt and began wearing it. When I went to an appointment at the doctor’s, a girl asked me what the teal ribbon meant. I told her that it was sexual assault awareness month, and the ribbon did exactly what it was suppose to do, spark a conversation.

The last week of the month was a fun one. I was interviewed by the one and only Melanie Taylor from 100.7 Star Pittsburgh! It was so great to have a conversation with around sexual assault awareness month, and what some of the universities have been doing. I was also able to share my site, facebook and twitter page!!! Listen to the first part  Listen to the 2nd part The Tuesday, on the 26th, I help my first webinar called: The Silent Crime: what your workplace needs to know about sexual and domestic violence. I thought it went really well! I hope the participants enjoyed what they learned and I hope to get to present and other organizations!

Throughout the entire month, I was able to wear red lipstick everyday. It was a challenge, because it gets everywhere! And it made it hard to kiss my son or my husband lol! But it truly made an impact because I was able to start some conversations online in regards to SAAM, Sexual violence awareness month.

The newest thing I was able to participate in was some twitter chats for survivors. There was a Solidarity chat every Monday, and Survivors steps chat every Wednesday. This opened me up to a whole new world that I never new existed and enabled me to talk to other survivors. Something I used to be uncomfortable with. So not only did I help in my healing process, but I was able to spread awareness through out the entire month!!!

 

Lastly, I had some great supporters this month who came out and was able to spread awareness too……a huge thanks goes out not only to them but also my husband and my son for putting up with my red lips alllllll month long!!! (If you liked the color I used, it was from the Dollar Store, go figure!!)

 

 

Happy 1-Year Anniversary, It’s on Us!

It’s On Us.
~Kristine

Exciting News! The It’s On Us campaign turned 1 year old last month!  For those of you who are unaware of “It’s On Us,” allow us to share some information on the campaign.

Not too long ago, sexual violence was a topic that nobody spoke about. It’s on Us is a campaign created by the U.S. government which centers on the topic itself by specifically targeting colleges and universities. It has taken a few years to reach this high point of the campaign, but all the efforts it took have really paid off.

In April 2011, Vice President Joe Biden and the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, introduced comprehensive guidance to help colleges and universities nationwide better understand their obligations under federal civil rights laws to prevent and respond to sexual assault on campus.

In early 2014, President Obama established a task force to protect students from sexual violence. In April of 2014, this same task force launched the 1is2many PSA, which you can watch at this link: 1 is 2 many PSA

I can remember watching this PSA when it was released and crying. I cried because when my own assault happened to me eleven years ago, I made a judgement call to get into a car with an acquaintance, leaving my friends behind. Simply because I knew this person, I thought I was safe, and so did my friends. The main message of the PSA for It’s on Us, came across so powerfully by illustrating the point that we all need to watch out for each other. The night of my own assault, my friends were watching out for me. The  difference was that we all thought I was safe with this person, and in turn I wasn’t. I also appreciated seeing a group of men be so vocal on how sexual violence is a crime no matter what. Without consent, it simply doesn’t matter.

It’s on Us also released a report, around the same time, that goes over tips for how schools, teachers and students can better understand and equip themselves with the right information to overcome this issue.

The report included action steps, recommendations, and best practices in four key areas:

(1) Identifying the scope of the problem through campus climate surveys
(2) Preventing campus sexual assault and engaging men
(3) Helping schools respond effectively when a student is assaulted
(4) Improving, and making more transparent, the federal government’s enforcement efforts

The campaign seeks to engage college students and all members of campus communities by preventing sexual assault in the first place. It’s on Us was launched in partnership with the Center for American Progress’ Generation Progress, along with student body leadership from nearly 200 colleges and universities across the country, collegiate sports organizations such as the NCAA, and private companies that have strong connections with students at colleges and universities.

It’s On Us aims to fundamentally shift the way we think about sexual assault, by inspiring everyone to see it as their responsibility to do something, big or small, to prevent it. The campaign reflects the belief that sexual assault isn’t just an issue involving a crime committed by a perpetrator against a victim, but one in which the rest of us also have a role to play. We are committed to creating an environment – be it a dorm room, a party, a bar or club, or the greater college campus – where sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported. This effort will support student-led efforts already underway across the country, and will focus particularly on motivating college men to get involved. (via http://www.whitehouse.gov)

The campaign, which can be found at itsonus.org, has asked individuals to take the pledge. This pledge is a personal commitment to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault.  It is a promise not to be a bystander to the problem, but to be a part of the solution. When one pledges they must follow the four criteria:

  1. To RECOGNIZE that non-consensual sex is sexual assault.
  2. To IDENTIFY situations in which sexual assault may occur.
  3. To INTERVENE in situations where consent has not or cannot be given.
  4. To CREATE an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.

It’s on Us has partnered with many celebrities and individuals to create PSA, and show their support for It’s on Us. You can check a few out below.

It’s on Us – Questlove

Rose Bryne – It’s On Us

So most of this was over a year ago…what is the campaign up to on it’s year anniversary?

Well they just released their new PSA called, “The One Thing” which you can view here: The One Thing

Here are some Highlights from the first year of “It’s On Us”:

  • On September 19, 2014, President Obama and Vice President Biden unveiled “It’s On Us,” in partnership with Generation Progress at the Center for American Progress. “It’s On Us” recognizes that the solution to sexual assault begins with all of us. It seeks to reframe the conversation surrounding sexual assault in a way that inspires everyone to see it as his or her responsibility to do something, big or small, to prevent it.
  • In the last year alone, students have launched “It’s On Us”campaigns at over 300 schools and have hosted more than 650 “It’s On Us” events.
  • Since the launch of “It’s On Us” last September, almost 220,000 people have taken the pledge to end sexual assault on college campuses; “It’s On Us” PSAs have had over 10  million  views online  and campaign has generated over 3 billion media impressions.
  • “It’s On Us” now has over 90 partners including media, sports leagues and conferences, sexual assault prevention organizations, non-profit organizations, and corporations.

Ok so now that I filled you with facts on this campaign, here is what it comes down to: bystander invention. Bystander intervention involves developing the awareness, skills, and courage needed to intervene in a situation when another individual needs help. Bystander intervention allows individuals to send powerful messages about what is acceptable and expected behavior in our community.

Check out this video from the TV what would you do……it shows a young girl, drunk, at a bar and a man who approaches her and tries to take her to his hotel. Watch what the people around her do. What would you do – Bystander Intervention

Want to help? Want to take the step to change rape culture, because it is ON US. Take the pledge. at It’s on US.

Continue to spread the Word.

#Itsonus #VOH #Bystanderintervention

Welcome to Voices of Hope

Welcome to Voices of Hope.

My name is Kristine and I am a survivor of rape.

This is my first blog post…Ever…So forgive me for being a little nervous.

Okay, so maybe this isn’t technically my first blog post, I had some sort of blog in high school that documented the trials and tribulations of a typical teenage girl which included documenting everyday occurrences such as in lunch room drama, my braces being removed, and a trip to NYC with my mom and my girlfriend.

This blog is going to be a little different.

I am a survivor of rape.

2014 marked the 10 year anniversary of my attack. I often question if I should even call the years that have passed an anniversary. While some may not agree with it, I believe that if this awful situation had not happened to me, I would not be the person that I am today. Therefore, I will continue to call it an anniversary of some sort.

Roughly a year after I was raped, I knew that I wanted to share my story. Until that point in my life, I had never personally known anyone in my life that had been raped, sexually assaulted, or even a victim of a violent crime. To live through a sexual assault was a lot to take in and I just had the feeling that I had to share my story.

So during college courses, I began to document. Rather than sitting in class and paying attention (as I should have been), I would write countless pages about what had happened to me. I wrote down all of the events leading up to the incident, forcing myself to try to remember whatever I could. The road that led to the attack felt most important, not any of what happened afterwards. I was so busy living in the past that it didn’t matter what I was going through in the present. I didn’t take the time to realize how the rape actually effected my well-being, my life, my friends, and family.

Eventually, I stopped. I stopped writing all together. Things had come up in my life that got in the way and I continued to trudge through the next few years attempting to get back to some sort of normal. What I didn’t know, is I would never be normal, nor would I be the same person again.

In 2014, though, I had a revelation: The attack that I endured wasn’t simply about it me…It was also about every family member and friend that I encountered both before and after the incident. It took me 10 long years to realize that I could not imagine being my roommate, my aunt, my cousin, my best friend, my mother or father. In order to come full circle and fully accept what had happened to me, I had to learn what they had gone though as a result of my rape. Therefore, a large part of my story is also theirs. I decided to write a personal letter to the family and friends who knew me before the incident happened, and even after.

So far, letters have been sent to just over 10 people. I have reached out to them through traditional mail and e-mail and asked them to write about their feelings. Knowing that this process was going to be a challenge for me, I started by reaching out to those people whom I knew would be the easiest to speak with about the situation. Unsure of how some would respond, I did send out a couple of the more difficult letters a few months later. Little did I forget the emotion that would come with just reaching out to some people…

This feels like a natural stopping point in my story, but one final thought before I go.

The goal of this blog, first and foremost, is to have my friends and family contribute and share their thoughts about my experience and to personally reply to their responses. Voices of Hope also aims to share sexual assault/rape/sexual violence news, rape culture news, statistics, and ways to get help. We are also really hoping to start a conversation about sexual assault and rape in order to not only help silent victims know that they are not alone, but to also create a movement which aims to change rape culture.

Kristine Irwin, May 2015

P.S. A huge shout out to one of my best friends, Julie, who has not only assisted in the creation of this blog, but also will be contributing to and spreading Voices of Hope in order to make a change.

#Stoprapeeducate #voicesofhope #changerapeculture