Monthly Archives: September 2013

3rd annual Wine Tasting in Franklin County

Our wine tasting is in two days! Please join us at the Holman House in Farmington this Thursday, September 26th for wine, food, music, and mingling…all for a good cause! There will be a raffle to win gift certificates to The Homestead, Calzolaio Pasta Co., The Roost, The Dugout, Farmington House of Pizza, and GrantLee’s.

About our musical guests:

Plinksters at Norlands

The Merry Plinksters Ukulele Group is the ongoing year-round extension of a 4-week Ukulele 101 class that is offered twice a year at RSD9 Adult Education in Farmington. Facilitator Michael Burd is also the Technology Instructor there. The group, founded in 2010, has an extensive and unique catalog of songs spanning many decades and genres. Burd supplements his instruction time as a professional bassist; recording and touring nationally. The Plinksters are comprised of up to a dozen or so vibrant members at any one time. They meet weekly at 7PM Tuesday eves at the Adult Learning Center, and the first Tuesday of each month is open to anyone to attend at no charge. The Plinksters are also available for select events. Contact Mike at the Adult Ed office, 778-3460, for more details.

Also, during the wine tasting, original pieces of artwork from “Portraits of Courage” will be on display. These paintings are to honor survivors and their advocates.

POC photo w-text

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are unable to attend this fundraiser, but would like to make a donation, you may do so at our website www.sapars.org. Thank you!

This event is sponsored by Rons Market.

Addressing rape myths

My Body Is Not a Laptop (and 7 other Misconceptions about Rape That I’d Like To Clear Up), via Huffingonton Post

It seems that whenever important conversations about sexual violence and rape culture are raised, the dialogue easily gets derailed by a handful of recycled misconceptions. These dangerous platitudes pose a constant threat to progress, so too often we choose to ignore them instead of confronting them. Too often, we assume that the individuals peddling these misconceptions are doing it maliciously, instead of considering that they might genuinely lack understanding.

In an effort to clear things up, I spent an absurd amount of time in what can only be classified as the Internet doldrums: reading the comments on a cross-section of articles related to sexual violence including one of my own. (In an unrelated side note, can somebody please provide me with the textbook definition of “dumb ass female chauvinist”? Because it seems like something I should add to my LinkedIn headline.)

The goal of my cringe-worthy investigation was to identify and subsequently debunk the most pervasive misconceptions, ones that have been perpetuated both online and off.

“If I leave my laptop in my unlocked car and someone steals it, the thief is responsible BUT my negligence was still a contributing factor. In terms of sexual violence, isn’t it a woman’s responsibility not to be negligent?”

Your laptop is an inanimate object, a piece of property with an assigned monetary value. A woman’s body, on the other hand, is not. This comparison (which has been made in all sorts of colorful varieties) underscores the problem at hand: treating a woman’s sexuality as a material commodity instead of treating a woman’s sexuality as one of the many aspects that make up a human being. Faulting a victim for how they dressed, acted or behaved leading up to an assault is as illogical and offensive as faulting a businessman on 9/11 for working in a tall and iconic building. We need to hold perpetrators accountable, not victims.

“People who fight against so-called ‘rape culture’ are treating all men like predators at default.”

Actually, rape culture treats all men like predators at default — people fighting against rape culture, in my experience, hold men in much higher esteem. I think a culture that says “boys will be boys and some of them just can’t help themselves,” treats men like predators. I think a culture that holds women and girls accountable for the way they are perceived by boys and men treats men like predators. Fighting in opposition to that culture requires a belief that men can and should be held to a higher standard of behavior and culpability.

“Rape happens when a man can’t control his urge for sex — so women should avoid dressing and acting in ways that might provoke him.”

Rape is about power, control and dominance — not a perpetrators inability to control themselves. Sex is the weapon, not the motivator. This explains why inmates perpetrating same-sex rape in prison consider themselves heterosexual and this explains why rape is used as a strategic weapon of war.

“Lots of rape reports are false. So-called victims lie about being raped all the time.”

That depends entirely on your definition of “lots.” Studies show that the rate of false reporting for sexual assault ranges between 2-8 percent. When you consider that incidents of sexual violence are the most underreported types of crime in this country, and factor in the Justice Department estimates that about 54 percent of rapes go unreported, the percentage of false reports is more like 1-4 percent. One of the reasons victims frequently cite for not coming forward is a fear they won’t be believed.

“Talking about ‘male as perpetrator, female as victim’ rape as a pandemic is dismissive toward individuals who have been a victim outside of those circumstances.”

Every case of sexual violence is different and oftentimes different circumstances require a different set of conversations and solutions. Of course there are perpetrators and victims of all gender identities but 20 percent of all women in the United States suffer rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. Addressing, acknowledging and challenging that heinous reality doesn’t negate other experiences, in the same way that talking about breast cancer doesn’t negate the experiences of people with prostate cancer.

“The way we talk about sexual violence is too gender-oriented. Why can’t we just teach EVERYBODY to treat EVERYBODY with respect and humanity?”

We can and we should. Unfortunately, at present, sexual violence is largely gender-oriented. Our culture impresses completely different messages to men and women about their roles, instincts and respective degrees of accountability. If we want to change that, we have to acknowledge and address it. Pretending like gender stereotypes and gender expectations don’t pervade sexual violence is untrue and unproductive. For example, while female victims are often scapegoated for “enticing men’s violent urges,” male victims are often told they aren’t victims at all and too often queer victims are dismissed all together — all of this is the result of how we have been socialized to see and understand our gender. We’re not starting with a blank slate and we should not pretend to.

“It doesn’t matter how we talk about rape or the jokes we tell about rape or how the news media covers rape or the way we portray rape on TV. Rape happens because of criminals not because of culture.”

Rape is, of course, the fault of the perpetrator but suggesting that sexual violence is not empowered or perpetuated in a culture that normalizes it, is blatantly untrue.

“I’m not a rapist. I would never be a rapist. I would never be friends with a rapist. I think rape is horrible. I get it. Can we stop talking about it now?”

Somewhere, somehow, some people got it in their head that some women or all women or feminists or liberals or sociologists or “progressive-types” just LOVE talking about sexual assault. I can only speak for myself in saying that I HATE talking about sexual assault. But you know what I hate even more than talking about it? I hate that it occurs. I hate that it occurs rampantly. I hate the way that so many people accept it as an unfortunate reality instead of seeking to curtail it as an unacceptable abomination.

I hate that a Montana judge handed down a 30-day prison sentence to a 54-year-old rapist because he deemed the 14-year-old victim was “older than her chronological age.”

I hate that “revenge porn” is actually a thing.

I hate that a pro-rape chant at St. Mary’s University becomes a five-year tradition before anybody thinks to condemn it.

I hate how often we forget that systematic rape in wartime is a crime against humanity.

I hate story after story where colleges and universities fail to take reports of sexual assault seriously.

I hate that a survivor of rape receives threats of death and assault for sharing a very valid opinion.

I hate that a jury acquitted a man who shot and killed his escort because she refused to have sex with him.

So no. We can’t stop having important conversations because they remind us of unsavory realities. We shouldn’t deal in myths because it is more comfortable than dealing in facts.

And we must always have more patience for discussion than for silence.

Portraits of Courage – Kickstarter

POC photo w-text

“Where do you find your strength, and how did you find the courage to walk toward healing?”

Please take a moment to view the 2 1/2 minute video on the following link to learn more about how you or your organization can participate in this important, uplifting, and inspirational project – Kickstarter page: Portraits of Courage.

An Invitation: Penny Hood Artist/LCPC from Farmington has launched a series of portraits honoring the Strength and Courage of survivors and their advocates. The goal is to create 30 “Working Portraits” as a traveling exhibit, to raise awareness, and shift our current conversation on violence. The first eleven portraits have been on display at the Franklin County SAPARS office, and the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area in Farmington, and could be at your venue in the coming months!

These survivors and advocates have given us the gift of their own strength. Please help make it possible for others to do the same.

For more information, please go to Penny Hood Artist/LCPC’s website, and if you would like a peek at how one of these portraits came about, click here.

Thank you for your interest, support and courage.

SAPARS Fall Support Groups

Support groups for survivors of sexual abuse or sexual assault are one of the most valuable services offered by Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services.  Many survivors who have participated in support groups note that the group was a significant positive step towards taking their life back and moving forward in the healing process.

One survivor said, “To look into the eyes of others who understand what it means to be sexually assaulted, be believed, share one another’s pain, and growth, ask questions, and be given options to grow and heal is a life changing experience.”

Support groups are being offered in three different locations this Fall.  The women’s group in Androscoggin County begins on Sept. 11 and will continue for 20-30 weeks.  The women’s group in Franklin County will begin on Sept. 24 and will run in 10 week segments. There will also be a women’s group in the Rumford area beginning later this Fall.

Franklin County hosts an ongoing group for male survivors which meets on Monday evenings.  Groups for male survivors can also be available in the other regions if there is enough interest to start a group.  All groups are offered free of charge.

Anyone interested in being part of a support group should contact their local county office:

Androscoggin  (207) 784-5272
Franklin (207) 778-9522
Oxford (207) 743-9777

“People don’t always need advice. Sometimes all they really need is a hand to hold, an ear to listen, and a heart to understand them.” – Unknown

From father to son

Seeing a Woman: a conversation between a father and son

Someday I am going to have to have the conversation with my son. No, not the conversation all parents dread giving and all kids are mortified having. I enjoy making people uncomfortable so that conversation should be fun.

No, I’m talking about another conversation. The one that happens after I catch his eye doing what male eyes do well – following an object of lust. We will probably be out at the mall, because that’s what dads do with their sons, and I’ll catch the look. Maybe we’ll go to the beach and see it. Doesn’t matter where it is, there will come a time when I will see it. And then it will be time for this conversation.

*****

Hey, come here. Let me talk to you. I saw you look at her. I’m not judging you or shaming you. I know why you did. I get it. But we have to talk about it because how you look at a woman matters.

A lot of people will try and tell you that a woman should watch how she dresses so she doesn’t tempt you to look at her wrongly. Here is what I will tell you. It is a woman’s responsibility to dress herself in the morning. It is your responsibility to look at her like a human being regardless of what she is wearing. You will feel the temptation to blame her for your wandering eyes because of what she is wearing – or not wearing. But don’t. Don’t play the victim. You are not a helpless victim when it comes to your eyes. You have full control over them. Exercise that control. Train them to look her in the eyes. Discipline yourself to see her, not her clothes or her body. The moment you play the victim you fall into the lie that you are simply embodied reaction to external stimuli unable to determine right from wrong, human from flesh.

Look right at me. That is a ridiculous lie.

You are more than that. And the woman you are looking at is more than her clothes. She is more than her body. There is a lot of talk about how men objectify women, and largely, it is true. Humans objectify the things they love in effort to control them. If you truly love a person, do not reduce them to an object. The moment you objectify another human – woman or man, you give up your humanity.

There are two views regarding a woman’s dress code that you will be pressured to buy into. One view will say that women need to dress to get the attention of men. The other view will say women need to dress to protect men from themselves. Son, you are better than both of these. A woman, or any human being, should not have to dress to get your attention. You should give them the full attention they deserve simply because they are a fellow human being. On the other side, a woman should not have to feel like she needs to protect you from you. You need to be in control of you.

Unfortunately, much of how the sexes interact with each is rooted in fear. Fear of rejection, fear of abuse, fear of being out of control. In some ways, the church has added to this. We fear each other because we have been taught the other is dangerous. We’ve been taught a woman’s body will cause men to sin. We’re told that if a woman shows too much of her body men will do stupid things. Let’s be clear: a woman’s body is not dangerous to you. Her body will not cause you harm. It will not make you do stupid things. If you do stupid things it is because you chose to do stupid things. So don’t contribute to the fear that exists between men and women.

A woman’s body is beautiful and wonderful and mysterious. Respect it by respecting her as an individual with hopes and dreams and experiences and emotions and longings. Let her be confident. Encourage her confidence. But don’t do all this because she is weaker. That’s the biggest bunch of crap out there. Women are not weaker than men. They are not the weaker sex. They are the other sex.

I’m not telling you to not look at women. Just the opposite. I’m telling you to see women. Really see them. Not just with your eyes, but with your heart. Don’t look to see something that tickles your senses, but see a human being.

My hope is that changing how you see women will change how you are around them. Don’t just be around women. Be with women.

Because in the end, they want to be with you. Without fear of being judged, or shamed, or condemned, or objectified, or being treated as other. And that’s not just what women want. That’s what people want.

Ultimately, it’s what you want.

Personal boundaries

Stop Asking My Daughter To Give You A Kiss, via rolereboot:

This originally appeared on The Daily Life. Republished here with permission.

“Give us a kiss,” said the man serving me coffee.

He wasn’t talking to me, but it was just as—if not more—inappropriate. Rather, he was talking to my daughter Violet.

It’s not the first time. In the last two months, two other relative strangers—a neighbor and an old family friend at a wedding—have bent down to my 4-year-old’s level, tapped their cheek in expectation, and demanded a kiss from her.

On each occasion I’ve wanted to scream, “Don’t ask my daughter to kiss you, it’s creepy!” I remember being presented with cheeks when I was a kid and feeling the discomfort of such forced intimacy.

But despite my own bad experiences from childhood, I didn’t intervene on Violet’s behalf. I stood there silently and watched as she hesitated, flinched, and then obliged.

I’m quite sure that all three of the kiss demanders—one woman and two men—were good people. They weren’t being predatory, and I didn’t want to offend them or cause a scene.

I was being the people-pleasing good girl that I’m trying—obviously not very successfully—to teach Violet not to be. I prioritized social harmony and appeasing relative strangers over the wishes of my daughter.

But I won’t do it again.

The reason is that a kiss isn’t just a kiss, no matter how innocent and innocuous the intent might be. The ritual of demanding affection from children on cue is one of those tiny, everyday little lessons in which we teach children—especially girls—that they are to tailor their emotional responses to please others.

This is despite the fact that we go to great lengths to tell children that they are in charge of their bodies. But if their bodies are truly their own, then they also need to learn that they’re in charge of their instincts and desires. If a child doesn’t want to kiss a relative stranger—and let’s face it, why would they?—then they shouldn’t have to.

I want Violet to know that her intimacy and affection is always under her control and she should never feel obliged to give it away for somebody else’s benefit if she doesn’t want to. She shouldn’t have to provide affection on cue just because social rituals demand it.

By remaining silent and acquiescing to strangers’ desires for Violet’s affection, I effectively told my daughter that “It’s OK to say no”—except when it isn’t.

This message is too subtle for a 4-year-old to grasp. It can only be understood in absolutes. Which means that Violet needs to know that if she doesn’t want to kiss somebody then she shouldn’t. She also needs to understand that I will always back her unequivocally, no matter how embarrassing this will be to me, or the person asking for a kiss.

A couple of friends who also find it creepy when people demand kisses from their kids, navigate the social awkwardness by suggesting that their child gives the kiss-requester a high-five or a handshake instead.

These options give children more choices about how they respond to friendly advances. Children are introduced into the world of civil graces, recognizing and acknowledging others, while also putting in place boundaries.

That’s fine for genuinely friendly approaches, but we still need to make clear to our children that if they ever feel uncomfortable, and feel that they’re being pressured to oblige, then they have the right to say no—even if it causes offense.

Personal boundaries are taught—and should be taught—early and consistently. The next time someone asks for a kiss from my daughter, I’m going to use it as a teachable moment. It’s an opportunity to reinforce the message—both in practice as well as in theory—that the only person who decides who she kisses is her.

Dating a sexual assault survivor

7 Pitfalls to Avoid When Dating a Sexual Assault Survivor, via The Good Men Project:

Sarah Beaulieu struggled to find the right way to tell people she was a sexual assault survivor. Here’s how you can support someone who opens up about sexual assault.

As a survivor of sexual violence, I always found it challenging to “come out” to a potential love interest about my history.  It never seemed to come up naturally in conversation on a date.

There is no right or wrong approach to telling a date that you are a survivor of sexual violence. It’s a completely personal decision, and you have to figure out what works for you. In college, one of my big motivations for sharing my story publicly at Take Back the Night was to share it with the entire universe of potential love interests all at once, so I didn’t have to tell it again and again every time I met someone new.

As the years went on, I experimented with many different tactics. Sometimes, I told people on the first date. Sometimes I told them BEFORE the first date. Sometimes I told them over coffee. Sometimes I told them after a second round of drinks. Sometimes, the relationship fizzled out before I had a chance to share my story at all.

On the one hand, I never felt like I wanted to hide my history of sexual violence from dates, just like I wouldn’t hide the death of a parent or a bad car accident. Being a survivor—and the resilience that goes along with it—is such a deep part of who I am. I knew I needed a partner with an appropriate level of spiritual depth, emotional intelligence, and empathy to join me on my lifelong journey of being a survivor. On the other hand, it was a personal story and one that I didn’t necessarily want to share in detail with someone unless I saw a future together.

Ultimately, I learned to open the door to my history a little bit at a time, in ways that tracked with the developing intimacy with the relationship. For example, I referred to “darker times,” or mentioned that I saw a therapist regularly. When I started volunteering at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center as a medical advocate and then as a survivor speaker, I found ways to drop volunteer experiences into the conversation. I found ways to start the conversation, and decided how deep I wanted to go based on the response.

As a survivor and as a human, I can only be the expert in my own experience. But throughout my decade of dating, I picked up a few pointers when it comes to encountering a survivor of sexual violence on a date.

♦◊♦

DO educate yourself. If you have never encountered a sexual violence survivor, please, please educate yourself before going on any more dates.  One out of four women and one out of six men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Chances are, you will go on a date with a survivor, so do yourself and your future dates a favor and start learning about the issue now.  There are lots of places where you can go educate yourself at a place like RAINNNational Sexual Violence Resource Center, or 1in6, and here’s a link to a fact sheet from the Center for Disease Control.  That way, you won’t put yourself in the positions of asking your date to be your teacher and you are much less likely to say something that will later regret.

DON’T assume it’s baggage. I remember the look I would sometimes get from dates, “Oh god, this chick has baggage.”  Newsflash: All humans have baggage, it’s what makes us human. Being a survivor of sexual violence does not make you inherently damaged. Sure, it’s a trauma, but with proper, professional help, survivors can live and thrive in the world. And like I now tell my husband when we go away for the weekend: I may have a lot of baggage, but I’m strong enough to carry it myself.

Don’t try to fix it. Even if this person is at the beginning of the process, you do not need to save or fix the person. Sure, sometimes the person sharing might be doing so because they need some help, in which case you can refer them to a professional. You are probably not a therapist. And even if you are, you are on a date, not in a therapy session. If you want to fix something, try fixing the issue of sexual violence by talking about it more openly, volunteering with an anti-sexual violence organization, or attending an awareness or prevention workshop or event.

Do say something. This might be obvious. But stunned, open-mouthed silence was something I encountered far too often. You might be afraid of saying the wrong thing, but say something, anything. Try saying thank you. Whether it’s the first time or the 50th time sharing a story of sexual assault, it’s a hard thing to do. This person trusted you—yes you!—enough to tell you, so be grateful—and pumped—that you are that kind of person.

Here are some other suggestions if you find yourself at a loss for words:

  • Wow, thank you for telling me that. I can’t imagine what that must have been like for you.
  • I’m so grateful you trusted me enough to share that part of your life.
  • No one has ever shared that kind of story with me before, but I’m really glad you did. I know sexual violence impacts so many people.
  • I’m so sorry that happened to you. What kinds of things helped you along the way?

Don’t put your foot in your mouth. If you have taken the time to educate yourself, you probably won’t say any of these things: What were you wearing?  Why were you alone? Were you drunk? Was there a condom? Are you sure? That’s can’t be true. Who was it? How can you still speak to your family? Why didn’t you report it to the police? That must make sex really hard for you. 

Do call to follow up. If you decide you don’t like the person enough to continue dating them, call them. Go the extra step to let them know that you think they are brave/courageous/insert true and positive adjective here but that you don’t feel that special something you want to feel in order to go out on another date. Don’t make your date wonder whether you thought he or she was damaged goods because of sexual violence.

Don’t blab. Keep his or her confidence, even if you don’t continue dating. While we continue to reduce the shame and stigma around sexual violence, it’s still a personal story. It’s not to announce to your friends and families, or to gossip about online or in person. Hold and honor this story with respect and confidence. It’s not your story to tell.

Now that I’m married, I don’t have to share my story on romantic dates, but I still meet new friends and colleagues all the time.  And while I don’t have to tell them about my history of sexual violence, I often do because I think it’s an important way to make the issue more accessible and personal. By doing so, I hope to make it easier for friends, dates, and regular people to talk openly about the things that make them who they are.