Monthly Archives: October 2013

Penn State to compensate Sandusky victims

Penn State Will Pay Nearly $60 million to 26 Sandusky Victims, via Huffington Post:

HARRISBURG, Pa. — HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Penn State said Monday it is paying $59.7 million to 26 young men over claims of child sexual abuse at the hands of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

The university said it had concluded negotiations that have lasted about a year.

The school said 23 deals are fully signed and three are agreements in principle. The school faces six other claims, and the university says it believes some do not have merit while others may produce settlements.

Penn State said the day Sandusky was convicted in June 2012 of 45 criminal counts that it was determined to compensate his victims.

The settlements have been unfolding since mid-August, when attorneys for the accusers began to disclose them. Penn State followed a policy in which it has not been confirming them, waiting instead to announce deals at once.

Penn State has spent more than $50 million on other costs related to the Sandusky scandal, including lawyers’ fees, public relations expenses, and adoption of new policies and procedures related to children and sexual abuse complaints.

Sandusky, 69, has been pursuing appeals while he serves a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence.

Three former Penn State administrators await trial in Harrisburg on charges they engaged in a criminal cover-up of the Sandusky scandal. Former president Graham Spanier, retired vice president Gary Schultz and retired athletic director Tim Curley deny the allegations, and a trial date has not been scheduled.

Eight young men testified against Sandusky, describing a range of abuse they said went from grooming and manipulation to fondling, oral sex and anal rape when they were boys.

Sandusky did not testify at his trial but has long asserted his innocence. He has acknowledged he showered with boys but insisted he never molested them.

The abuse scandal rocked Penn State, bringing down football coach Joe Paterno and leading college sports’ governing body, the NCAA, to levy unprecedented sanctions against the university’s football program.

Celebrity memoirs of childhood sexual abuse

80’s child star, Corey Feldman is set to release his new memoir, Coreyography, on October 28th. This book will discuss the child sexual abuse that he, and fellow actor/friend, Corey Haim (who passed away in 2010) experienced in Hollywood. “Pedophilia was and still is Hollywood’s biggest problem and darkest secret.”

Unfortunately, the stigma that sexual assault only happens to females still exists. If you are a male survivor, please know that you are not alone: “Researchers estimate that 1 in 6 men have experienced unwanted or abusive sexual experiences before age 18.” –

If you need help, or someone to talk to, we offer a men’s support group every Monday at 6:30 PM in Farmington, and you can always call our 24-hour helpline number at 1-800-871-7741. When you’re ready, we’ll be here.


Corey Feldman’s ‘Coreyography’ details sexual abuse he, Corey Haim Faced, via The Huffington Post

In his new memoir, Coreyography, Corey Feldman details the sexual abuse he and fellow child star Corey Haim endured in Hollywood at the hands of men they worked with and considered friends. Due out Oct. 28, the book also describes years of drug abuse both he and Haim faced.

On the 1986 set of “Lucas,” Haim told Feldman that “an adult male convinced him that it was perfectly normal for older men and younger boys in the business to have sexual relations, that it was what all the guys do. So they walked off to a secluded area between two trailers … and Haim allowed himself to be sodomized,” Feldman wrote, per an excerpt obtained by Page Six.

After relaying the incident to Feldman, Haim asked, “So, I guess we should play around like that, too?” Feldman dismissed him, saying, that’s “not what kids do, man.” But Feldman went on to suffer abuse himself, specifically by a man named “Ron,” whom his father hired as his assistant. Ron allegedly took advantage of him after turning him onto drugs.

Both Haim and Feldman battled substance abuse issues for years. Feldman, now 42, reached a breaking point when he was arrested for heroin in 1990 at 19 years old. After two more drug arrests, he got sober. Haim was in and out of rehab for addiction 15 times before his death in 2010.

Corey was raped at the age of 11,” Feldman writes, via the New York Daily News, “and like many, many victims, drug use became an easy, if also tragic, way for him to escape the weight of that shame.”

Two years before he died, Haim opened up to People magazine about his demons.

“I was very, very awake and very ashamed of what was going on, how I put it, I was just … coming into Hollywood, man, [I was] just a horny little kid, like on drugs, getting fed drugs, man, by vampires,” he said of being abused at 14. “I still blame myself to an extent, but my conscience is much, much more clear. I have come to terms with this a long time ago but obviously not [totally]. Stuff happens when you are a kid, it scars you inside for life.”

In 2011, Feldman told “Nightline” that a “Hollywood mogul” who abused Haim is to blame for the late actor’s death. He said pedophilia was and still is Hollywood’s biggest problem and darkest secret.

Military sexual assault

Pingree addresses Navy nominee’s comments about sexual assault, via Lewiston Sun Journal 

PORTLAND — Controversial statements about how the military handles sexual assault claims by a woman nominated for the second highest civilian position in the Navy have caused a key U.S. Senate member to question whether she should get the job.

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation, who have played key roles in trying to enact legislation to address sexual assault in the military, weren’t ready to oppose Jo Ann Rooney’s nomination as undersecretary of the Navy, but they did express concern Friday about her position on sexual assault in the military.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, the Maine Democrat who sponsored the Ruth Moore Act, legislation that would strengthen protections for sexual assault victims within the U.S. military, said Friday that Rooney’s statements raise new questions about the Navy’s commitment to a “zero tolerance” policy toward sexual assault. She also said Rooney’s attempt to clarify her initial remarks on the topic failed to ease her concerns that the military is doing enough to change a culture that has sometimes denied justice to service men and women victimized by sexual abusers.

Also on Friday, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said she will meet with Rooney later this month, as she has with other nominees, to ask more questions.

In a letter Wednesday to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Committee on Armed Services, Rooney attempted to clarify remarks made ahead of her nomination about the impact of requiring a judge advocate, outside the chain of command, to determine whether allegations of sexual assault should be prosecuted.

According to the letter, which Pingree provided to the Bangor Daily News, Rooney said in her original statement that such a change would result in “decisions based on evidence rather than the interest in preserving good order and discipline. I believe this will result in fewer prosecutions and therefore defeat the very problem that I understand [the change] seeks to address.”

On Wednesday, Rooney wrote that her response “did not mean to suggest that commanders do not consider evidence,” but instead “the view that commanders must evaluate more than the evidence” — including, she said, “the offense’s effect on morale, health, safety, welfare and discipline.”

The remarks prompted Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to express “serious concerns” about Rooney’s nomination, Politico reported Friday. Gillibrand spokesman Glen Caplin told Politico Gillibrand asked that a committee vote on Rooney’s nomination wait until the nominee offers answers to additional questions.

Pingree told the BDN on Friday that she shares Gillibrand’s concerns, and added that “it is appropriate for Congress to push” to get those additional answers.

“I think that some of the answers that were in this letter raise some serious questions, particularly in this time when I think there’s been such a huge emphasis by members of Congress to say to the Navy, ‘We want you to have a zero tolerance policy. These are crimes. You can’t train them out of the Navy. We want you to take a stand,” Pingree said.

Collins, who is the lead co-sponsor of two bills, including Gillibrand’s, to address sexual assault in the military, said in an email to the Bangor Daily News Friday, “I raised concerns about sexual assault in the military at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing nearly a decade ago, and I am currently involved in a bipartisan effort to address this critical issue. Unfortunately, today, denial that this is a crisis remains widespread, and a zero tolerance for sexual assault and harassment has yet to become a culture of zero tolerance.”

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, was unavailable for comment Friday, spokeswoman Crystal Canney said.

Pingree, like Gillibrand, introduced legislation in Congress that would change the way sexual assaults in the military are prosecuted.

The Ruth Moore Act, already passed unanimously by the House, was inspired by a Maine woman who as an 18-year-old servicewoman was raped twice by her supervisor.

The legislation aims to reduce the standard of proof for victims of military sexual assault so that they can more easily obtain benefits, similar to how the Veterans Administration 2½ years ago relaxed the burden of proof for combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“With the Ruth Moore Act and other pieces of legislation sponsored and co-sponsored by all of the congressional delegation in Maine — we’ve been very unified in this — we want to see criminal activity prosecuted in the military,” Pingree said. “Anyone who thinks they can say, ‘Evidence isn’t important, and this isn’t a crime’ would set us back.”

“Rape is a societal problem, not a self-help issue.”

To Prevent Rape on College Campuses, Focus on the Rapists, Not the Victims, via Slate:

My colleague Emily Yoffe wrote in Slate on Tuesday about the alarming frequency of a certain sad news story: “a young woman, sometimes only a girl, who goes to a party and ends up being raped.” Yoffe goes on to argue that parents, schools, and sexual assault prevention experts can help bring down the number of those incidents by telling young women to stop drinking so much. As a woman who once went to a party and ended up being raped—though that’s not my preferred grammatical structure I’d use to describe what happened—I’m also invested in preventing these types of assaults. But Yoffe’s approach strikes me as myopic.

Rape is a societal problem, not a self-help issue. Parents can tell their own daughters not to get drunk, but even if those women follow instructions, it won’t keep other people’s daughters safe. It will just force campus rapists who rely on alcohol to execute their crimes to find other targets. As Yoffe notes, the research of David Lisak suggests that most rapes are committed by a small group of predators who claim a large number of victims. We can prevent the most rapes on campus by putting our efforts toward finding and punishing those perpetrators, not by warning their huge number of potential victims to skip out on parties.

Peter Lake, the director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University College of Law, told Yoffe that, in her words, “it is unrealistic to expect colleges will ever be great at catching and punishing sexual predators; that’s simply not their core mission. Colleges are supposed to be places where young people learn to be responsible for themselves.” Punishing rapists is not the “core mission” of any society, but it’s an important piece of the puzzle. That’s especially true for colleges, which are legally required under Title IX to not just catch and punish predators who operate in their institutions but to also take serious action to prevent students from victimizing each other in the first place. Failing to do so directly affects the schools’ ability to focus on academics. To cite just one relevant case: In 2007, the University of Colorado at Boulder was compelled to pay out nearly $3 million to two women raped on its campus after a court ruled that the university “had an official policy of showing high-school football recruits a ‘good time’ on their visits to the CU campus,” and failed to supervise the “players who served as hosts” despite having knowledge of at least one previous case of a high school student who was assaulted by the school’s recruits. Failing to address the culture that contributed to those assaults constituted “deliberate indifference.”

Furthermore, while a striking number of college assaults occur while both victims and perpetrators are intoxicated, rape has been a popular tool for subjugating women long before they joined in the “butt-chugging” craze. According to the Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey—which surveys Americans ages 12 and older about crime they’ve experienced, whether or not they reported it to the authorities—rape has declined markedly in the United States since 1979, even as female binge drinking has risen. That suggests that something other than a youthful appetite for Jäger bombs has shifted in this country—mainly, that women have made significant gains in educational attainment, economic independence, and sexual agency since the ’70s. As public policy researchers Amy Farmer and Jill Tiefenthalernote, intimate partner violence declines “as women’s alternatives outside their relationships improve” and they’re “able to achieve self-sufficiency in the long-run.”* Interpreting Title IX to include sexual violence on campus as a form of discrimination against women didn’t hurt.

When it comes to equalizing the playing field, we still have a long way to go. The huge gains women have made in higher education over the past few decades—they now constitute 57 percent of undergraduate students—has not translated to them having dominance over the campus social scene. In 2012, Carolyn L. Hsu, an associate professor of sociology at Colgate University, conducted a study on campus binge drinking and found that heavy alcohol consumption “is a symbolic proxy for high status in college,” because it’s “what the most powerful, wealthy and happy students on campus do.” Hsu identifies “higher-status” groups on campus as “wealthy, male, white, heterosexual, and Greek affiliated undergraduates.” Yoffe writes that if “female college students start moderating their drinking as a way of looking out for their own self-interest—and looking out for your own self-interest should be a primary feminist principle—I hope their restraint trickles down to the men.” But a “feminist” impulse for women to protect themselves by staying sober will not “trickle down” to boys, because they’re situated at the top of the social ladder. Booze may be a common accessory of powerful men on campus, but banning it won’t rob them of their influence. We’ll see real change on college campuses when we focus on dismantling the social structures that prioritize white, straight men and marginalize everyone else.

Colleges can start changing those structures by refusing to put the onus on victims to prevent their own assaults and instead holding perpetrators accountable for the crimes they commit—often, while drunk. Wayne State University psychologist Antonia Abbey notes that one study of college date rapists found that 62 percent “felt they had committed rape because of their alcohol consumption.” They “believed that their intoxicated condition caused them to initially misperceive their partner’s degree of sexual interest and later allowed them to feel comfortable using force when the women’s lack of consent finally became clear to them.” Importantly, the rapists “did not see themselves as ‘real’ criminals because real criminals used weapons to assault strangers.”

This belief isn’t just shared among perpetrators; when you tweet that you are “warning young women that there are rapists who use alcohol, not violence,” you reinforce the idea that rape does not constitute a violent crime if alcohol is involved. Banishing that idea is central to preventing these crimes. Abbey suggests that in rape cases where the perpetrator has been drinking, alcohol can encourage him to prioritize his “immediate sexual arousal and anger” over the “potential risk of being accused of sexual assault.” Colleges could instruct men to not drink so much, but again, most keg-loving frat boys are not rapists. Colleges can help crack down on sexual assault, Abbey writes, by increasing the “risks” inherent in raping other people. “If the costs of sexual assault are obvious, undesirable and immediate, then intoxication-driven sexual assaults are less likely to occur because the potential perpetrator cannot forget about the likely, undesirable consequences. This suggests that colleges need strong, consistent, well-publicized policies that no one can ignore.”

I agree with Yoffe that excessive alcohol consumption is a problem on college campuses (as it is elsewhere) that can contribute to a variety of social ills: disease, addiction, accidents, crime, even death. Singling out one gender of drinkers for alcohol education is counter-productive. It’s important to remember that our approach to sexual assault on college campuses won’t just influence the number of women who are victimized, and the percentage of perpetrators who are punished. Our approach will also affect the health and happiness of victims after the fact. Rape is damaging not just in a physical sense but also in a psychological one. It’s common among victims to internalize the crime and blame ourselves. As Gina Tron put it in her powerful Vice essay this year, “I got raped, then my problems started.” Telling women that they can evade rape by not drinking will only exacerbate that problem when it does happen, through no fault of their own. One victim of alcohol-assisted rape Yoffe spoke with said that she was overwhelmed with “shame and guilt” following the assault, and only began to come to terms with the crime when “I realized it wasn’t my fault.”  That realization felt like climbing out of a “deep, dark hole.” Victims should never be put in that hole in the first place—no matter how many drinks they’ve consumed.

Correction, Oct. 17, 2013: This post originally misspelled researcher Jill Tiefenthaler’s last name.

The importance of self-care

Small Acts of Self-Care as an Intentional Practice, via Everyday Feminism:

Standing in front of the mirror counting and cataloging frustrations.

Lying in bed staring at the ceiling, running list after list of what didn’t happen that could have, or what wouldn’t happen because it couldn’t.

Sound familiar?

It’s all normal.

The list of frustrations can include anything from the simplicity of not taking out the trash to the complexity of giving in when boundaries have already been set.

The thing is, without perspective, everything is personal, and this makes it easy to beat up an already bruised existence.

So maybe it’s time to change the way you look at yourself.

Think about it. How much more can you see from a second or third floor window than you can from the first floor? It’s the same with who we are.

If we never look at ourselves through a different frame, we’ll always appear the same.

If we stare at ourselves in front of the mirror or lie in our beds all of the time thinking the same self-deprecating thoughts, we’ll never set ourselves up for a new kind of series where we catalogue all of the ordinary that makes us extraordinary.

Now, the beauty of perspective is that it isn’t necessarily a given, which means that it can be cultivated.

Why is this great?

Because it means that if we don’t like ourselves today or if we like ourselves, but want to like ourselves even more, then we can learn how.

So here are three steps you can use to shift perspective, care for yourself, and find the time to do so.

Step 1. Think Greater Purpose

To write a book, create a piece of art, perform choreography or a Greek tragedy, there are hours and hours of drafts, sketches, and rehearsals poured in over time – days, weeks, months, and even years.

On average, a marathon runner’s pace of writing a book is about sixteen hours per week over a nine- or ten-month period.

Writing a book is hard work.

It’s iteration after iteration, and what sustains you is the greater purpose – the motivation behind it.

So you have to want to take care of yourself.

Most people think it’s selfish to practice self-care when there are husbands, wives, children, and chores to take care of.

Caring for the self feels egotistical – or at least hedonistic.

And maybe that has something to do with how we were raised in our society, but maybe not.

Think of the writer from before.

For the author to dedicate sixteen hours per week to writing, they have to believe in the greater purpose of what they’re doing.

If we could see the greater purpose of tending to our needs, then maybe we’d be more willing and likely to do it.

When we care for ourselves, the greater purpose attached to that is the well-being of ourselves and others.

The better we care for ourselves, the more we are able to give to others willingly.

To understand this, think of ignoring your wants to please your partner or someone else.

What happens?

You get annoyed at yourself for putting your needs to the side, but you also get frustrated with the person you’ve allowed to take center stage.

The more you let others needs come before your own, the more you’ll resent them for it.

Tending to ourselves makes interactions less an act of self-sacrifice and more of an enjoyment, something to look forward to.

So the greater purpose is to be a better friend, wife, husband, mother, father, daughter, son, person.

The greater purpose is to be present while talking to your partner, listening to what they have to say, to enjoy time spent with your family, to interact authentically in relationships.

Taking care of ourselves means we improve our relationships with others.

With the motivation to care for ourselves cemented, how do we then put it in motion?

Step 2. Time for Practice

When I was growing up, I played a lot of sports. And I had practice every day after school.

Practice was there to prepare us for games, which then pushed us even further in our development to go on to regionals, then state, then nationals.

While I understood this concept in relation to sports, I never thought about it in terms of who I was.

I simply thought that I was already supposed to be great at being myself.

But what I learned is that just like sports, caring for myself is a practice.

Self-care rituals will be different for each person.

So to figure out what works for you, start asking questions.

How do you want to be cared for? What kind of activities are nurturing to you? What are things that make you feel good? What are memories of things you’ve done that made you feel good?

Start brainstorming.

After a couple minutes, take another piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side, write “Small Acts of Self-Care,” and on the other side, write“Big Acts of Self-Care.”

Pull from your brainstorm.

Some things that would be under the small acts may be putting on lotion after a shower, pouring yourself a cup of tea, smiling at yourself in the mirror. Some bigger acts could be enrolling in a martial arts class, taking a walk, buying a new pillow, throwing out what doesn’t make you feel good.

The idea is that the more you practice the smaller acts of self-care, the larger acts will start to seem small as well.

Once the list is complete, pick four acts, one for each week of the month, and commit to doing them.

When the month is over, assess how you feel.

What will likely happen is that you’ll feel like you had more time during the month than you’ve had in the past.

And the reason is because by taking a bit of time for yourself, the time you spend with others is now quality.

Step 3. Work with the Time You Have 

For any want or achievement, you have to find the time to practice.

Whenever I talk about carving out time, I always hear something to the effect of“But I don’t even have enough time to carve out of!”

And yes, it might feel like that.

Here’s the kicker though: You do.

No one can ignore their responsibilities, but you do have control over how you use your time.

So here are some ways that you can use the hours that you already have in a day to build in some self-care:

At Work

  • Not everything is urgent: Prioritize what is urgent. Divide it from what is non-urgent, or what needs to be done today versus what can feasibly be done tomorrow.
  • Actually take your lunch break instead of working through it. Go for a walk or to a dance class. Sit in the park or read a book. Take the hour for you.
  • Say no if you don’t want more responsibility.
  • Before turning on your computer, say three things that you’re grateful for. Or keep naming things that you’re thankful for while your computer warms up and turns on. See how many you can come up with!
  • If you have your own office, put on a song and get up and dance for a couple minutes. Or do it even if you share a cubicle!
  • Stop gossiping and judging other people.
  • At the end of the day, take a minute to clean up your work space. Maybe splurge on some fresh flowers to put in a vase to brighten your day.
  • After you shut your computer down for the day, sit in your chair, close your eyes, and take five deep breaths.

At Home

  • Again: Not everything is urgent. Prioritization is key.
  • Say no if you’re not in the mood to get a drink with friends, have people over for dinner, or go out.
  • Make your bed. Get some decorative throw pillows if they’ll make you smile.
  • Take time to do something artsy, like drawing or putting on music and dancing around.
  • While you’re washing dishes or brushing your teeth, tell yourself three things you like about yourself. Try to come up with different ideas every day.
  • Before going to sleep, close your eyes and think of a happy memory.
  • Before you get out of bed in the morning, close your eyes and think about what kind of day you want to have, maybe choosing some positive words to keep in mind for the day. Listen to your emotions and what they are telling you.

Even small acts of self-care can be revolutionary. Don’t be afraid to take some time for you.

There are challenges to putting the above into practice, the biggest one probably being time.

But the more we learn how to see ourselves as something to nourish, the more we practice, and the more time we feel we have.

It’s time to change how we talk about bullying

A Problem of Power: Ending Bullying in Schools, via Everyday Feminism:

People cannot stop talking about bullying.

There are endless stories on repeat throughout the major media, and in the past few years, every state in the country has passed laws or policies that are aimed at tackling bullying.

Virtually every school in the country has a “Respect Week” or programming during October, National Bullying Prevention Month.

And these conversations are important. They come from a deep and serious concern for our young people who are hurting.

But they are also grossly ill-conceived.

Part of the trouble with tackling bullying is that there is no “one size fits all”approach, and there never can be one. And so long as we treat bullying as if it’s some general problem that requires general solutions like “respect campaigns,”we ensure that the problem of bullying will persist in our communities.

After all, at its root, bullying behavior is about power.

Far too often, young people tear each other down and target one another for sustained violence, harassment, or neglect in order to feel more powerful, particularly when the person exhibiting bullying behavior is feeling powerless.

Amanda Levitt of Fat Body Politics describes it perfectly:

If we actually started calling bullying what it is and address it as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, fat phobia, and classism, it would actually give children a better way to deal with the very same power dynamics they will face as adults, while also giving adults more responsibility to challenge the intolerance that is rooted within our society overall.

Identity-Based Bullying

In essence, it’s time we change how we talk about bullying.

In my own work, I use the term Identity-Based Bullying to get at the root of the bullying problem.

Though there are, of course, exceptions, the majority of bullying in American schools cannot simply be explained away with “kids will be kids” or as“adolescent cruelty.”

 It is reflective of the very same problems of power, oppression, and privilege that we see in wider society, only it’s played out in language and behavior that students can better understand.

After all, the patterns we see in bullying behavior reflect many of the issues of oppression and marginalization we see in wider society.

In Gender, Bullying, and Harassment, Elizabeth J. Meyer lays out the impacts of sexual harassment and body policing that young girls experience in school as one method of bullying.

The incredible researchers at GLSEN make it clear that LGBTQ+ students on the whole feel unsafe in school and are harassed and assaulted at alarming rates.

In their chapter “Fat Youth as Common Targets for Bullying” in The Fat Studies Reader, Jacqueline Weinstock and Michelle Kreibiel explain not only how common weight-based bullying actually is, but also how socially accepted it is within school climates.

In one school, students may be targeted for their race, in another for their physical or cognitive ability. In a third, they may be targeted for their religious expression or native language. Still in another, the bullying might relate to gender expression in more subtle ways, with boys who are less athletic teased for their interests and girls who choose not to shave their legs tormented for their bodily expression.

The point, though, is that tackling bullying simply with “respect” and “kindness,” while well-intentioned, simply misses the mark.

Punitive Measures Don’t Work

The most common outcome of the recent wave of anti-bullying legislation, though, has not been funding for trainings or curriculum that teaches students how to intervene when bullying is taking place around them or that gives teachers tools for building more inclusive classroom environments.

More than anything else, these laws hand down harsher consequences to punish bullies.

What these approaches fail to address, though, is that bullying cannot be solved with punitive consequences.

First and foremost, punitive measures, though sometimes warranted, do nothing to prevent further bullying if for no other reason than pre-frontal lobe development in young brains.

If the part of the brain that helps us reason “If I take X action, Y will be my consequence” isn’t fully functioning, then consequence-oriented policy isn’t going to solve the problem of bullying.

Beyond simple biology, though, there are socio-emotional arguments to discourage “zero tolerance” punitive approaches to bullying.

Most students who exhibit bullying behavior are struggling and have been bullied themselves. In fact, among middle school students, the majority of students have participated in bullying behavior at some time.

Norris M. Haynes, Christine Emmons, and Michael Ben-Avie of the Yale University’s Child Study Center even note that excessive punitive measures end up telling students who actually need more support that they are not wanted or welcome in the school community.

This is all to say that if we want to end the problem of bullying, we have to think differently about what solutions look like.

In short, we have to transform the culture and climate of our schools.

Building Cultures of Civility and Inclusion

If we want to end the problem of bullying, we have to do two things: appeal to the rest of the adolescent brain, the part that relies on culture and habit; and address the specific nature of the bullying in our school environments by championing inclusion.

Educational researcher Sheri Bauman of the University of Arizona uses the termclimates of civility to describe the challenge we face in tackling bullying.

If we want to end the problem, we cannot simply pass some laws and wash our hands. We have to do the tough work of changing culture and climate.

Fortunately, there are a few simple things that students, educators, and families can do to build cultures of civility and inclusion that prevent bullying.

1. Recognize That Every School Is Diverse

The first step to tackling the problem of bullying is acknowledging the diversity that exists in our schools.

So often, the conversation about diversity is boiled down to simply race and class(with maybe some gender or sexual orientation discussed marginally).

While these are vitally important aspects of student identity, they are simply part of the portrait of diversity in our communities.

Sometimes I will have schools in, say, rural South Dakota say to me, “We’re not diverse, so we’re not sure how the conversation about identity-based bullying applies to us.”

It leaves me baffled.

Not diverse?

What about student ability? Citizenship experience? Weight and body image? Student interest? Religion? Gender expression? Sexual orientation? Race? Class and wealth?

The other side of the coin of comprehending bullying behavior is understanding the diversity that exists in each and every school.

To paraphrase Gary Howard“Diversity is not a choice. It’s a demographic reality.”

2. Treat Bullying as a Problem of Power

To tackle bullying is to tackle the specific nature of bullying in any given school community.

To do that requires that we understand who is being targeted and what the bullying looks like.

More often than not, this is an exercise in understanding power.

Students without social power are those far more likely to be targeted by others for bullying behavior, whether that’s the social power of the school yard (i.e.: geeks vs. jocks) or the wider social power of identity privilege, power, and oppression.

When we understand who is being targeted, why they are more likely to be targeted in our specific community, and what this bullying looks like, we can begin to solve the problem.

3. Empathize

Empathy is vitally important.

We need to teach our young people how to empathize with others and how to stick up for one another, but we also need to model it.

Supporting those who have been targeted by bullying behavior is obvious(though sometimes it goes undone).

Far less popular, though, is empathy for those who’ve exhibited the bullying behavior.

This is not to say that students shouldn’t face consequences for their actions, butif we don’t get to the bottom of why students are bullying, we won’t solve the problem.

And more often than not, it’s because a student is hurting.

4. Engage the Whole Community

Far too often, schools treat bullying as something “in-house.”

Parent engagement is an afterthought, and the “support staff” of custodial workers, office workers, or security staff is all but ignored.

Training students to be UPstanders instead of bystanders is rare, and teachers aren’t often given the time to design school-wide interventions to tackle the problem.

Shifting culture and climate, though, means bringing everyone on board.

Offer families constructive ways to participate in the conversation. Take the time to train students and discuss bullying prevention in advisory. Offer all staff members opportunities to design and implement proactive and preventive solutions.

Because as the old saying goes, “It takes a village.”

5. Be Proactive, Not Reactive

So long as our approaches to bullying remain reactive, we will never mitigate the problem. We have to create the kinds of environments where students don’t bully.

Doing so responds to the part of the student brain from which they are more likely working, the part that relies on environmental cues and habits, in building critical mass for change.

Nearly every aspect of student experience and achievement can be tied back to inclusiveness.

When students feel safe and included in school, they show up for class. When students feel fully supported in their identity, they engage socially. When students are taught from an early age what it looks like to build inclusive environments, they are more likely to stand up for their peers. When students feel safe and included in school, they achieve at higher levels.

Simply put, we cannot punish bullying into oblivion.

We can, however, create environments where we value respect, empathy, care, and (at a minimum) civility.  And when those things are valued, bullying simply isn’t tolerated.

Ain’t No Easy Answers

When I’m approached by a principal, counselor, student, or parent to offer bullying prevention training or consulting, the client generally falls into one of two categories.

Half want easy answers. They want a simple, ten-step solution to the problem.

I can’t help these folks much.

But the other half?

They understand that bullying is complex and nuanced.

They understand that we cannot just lump people into categories of “bully, bystander, and victim.”

They understand that punitive measures don’t work.

These are the folks who understand the work it takes to shift culture and climate and are committed to that painstaking transformation.

These are the folks who are most likely to realize powerful change in their community.

And this is the group that I hope you fall in.

Prevention education needs to start early

Forced sexual contact common among teens, study suggests, via NBC News:

From a hastily forced kiss to outright rape, violent or at least coerced sexual contact may be worryingly common among teens and young adults, researchers reported Monday.

They found 9 percent of youths aged 14 to 21 admitted to some kind of forced sexual contact, using tactics from guilt to threats and actual physical force. Half blamed their victims.

Four percent of the more than 1,000 young men and women surveyed admitted to having raped someone else, the researchers report in the American Medical Association journal JAMA Pediatrics.

But most who tried or completed rape said they didn’t use physical force – 63 percent of those who said they had forced someone to have sex against their will said they used guilt as their main tactic, while 32 percent said they used arguments and other verbal pressure.

And the problem behavior tends to really begin at around age 16, said Michele Ybarra of the Center for Innovative Public Health Research in San Clemente, California and Kimberly Mitchell of the University of New Hampshire.

Ybarra says the study doesn’t paint the whole picture and she says the findings should encourage other researchers to dig a little deeper into questions about sexual behavior in the teen years, and whether it’s possible to predict and even prevent sexual violence.

What is clear is that many teens are not getting the message that ‘no’ means no, she said.

“What we wanted to find was the intent to get somebody to do something sexually when they knew the person did not want to do it,” Ybarra said in a telephone interview.

It’s hard to know just how common the problem really is, or how representative the teens and young adults in the survey are of the whole population. They’d all been taking part in a broader survey of teen use of violent media that started in 2006, when most were about 12, Ybarra and Mitchell say.

“We know that adolescence is an important time when these types of behavior emerge,” Ybarra said.

The questions are very detailed and do not include words such as “rape”. The teens were asked questions such as “In the last 12 months, how often have you kissed, touched, or done anything sexual with another person when that person did not want you to?”

The teens were allowed to answer the questions online so they could do so in privacy – the hope being that they would answer more honestly than if they feared they were being monitored. Harris interactive helped conduct the poll; the study was paid for by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Parents had to give their permission for the teens to take part, so that limited how many responded, Ybarra notes. Nonetheless, the results were startling.

“Nine percent of youths reported some type of sexual violence perpetration in their lifetime: 8 percent kissed, touched, or made someone else do something sexual when the youth knew the other person did not want to (ie, forced sexual contact); 3 percent got someone to give into sex when he or she knew the other person did not want to have sex; 3 percent attempted but were not able to force someone to have sex (ie, attempted rape); and 2 percent forced someone to have sex with him or her (ie, completed rape).”

Youths who reported seeing more violent sex online, in magazines, on television or at the movies were more likely to commit violent sexual acts. “It’s a marker for concern,” Ybarra said.

Other studies have shown that between 64 percent and 96 percent of rapes in the United States never get reported to authorities, and that between 6 percent and 15 percent of men of mostly college age admit to having committed acts that meet the legal definition of rape.

Ybarra said the findings show a lot more effort is needed to prevent sexual assaults. “We, as a society, need to take more responsibility to identify perpetrators and implement programs in schools,” she said. Parents need to teach kids about healthy sex, young people need to speak up when friends describe either being victims or perpetrators of forced sex and schools need more programs to help teach youngsters about acceptable behavior, she says.

Scott Berkowitz, CEO of the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), says rapists tend to start their violent behavior in their teens. “Because so few cases are ever reported to police and successfully prosecuted, they tend to keep going,” Berkowitz said in a telephone interview.

And teens are by far the most vulnerable age group to being attacks. “Nearly half of all victims in the country are under 18 when they are victimized, so this is quite common among youth,” Berkowitz said,

From a male survivor

I Was Raped By A Woman (And Then Dated Her For Two Years), via The Good Men Project:

Trigger warning for sexual violence

Ten years ago, I blacked out and was raped by a woman who I proceeded to date for the next year and a half of my life.

My freshman year of college, I had a high-school girlfriend three hours away from me on the other side of Ohio. I tried my best to expand my social circle while maintaining ties with her, which was essentially impossible.

Like most college freshmen, I drank too much. And one night, I drank too much and was pitched out of a frat house in the dead of winter. I don’t remember much, but I do remember being initially grateful for the all the hands that helped push me home and into my dorm room that night.

And then my eyeballs flipped themselves into the depths of my eye sockets.

I woke up in my lofted bed, and there were about a half dozen people in my room hanging out. My clothing was on the floor, and I felt an invisible miasma of shame engulfing me. Maybe it’s the hindsight talking, but I had a premonition that something wicked was coming. Maybe it’s because my future rapist was in the room. My eyes retreated into orbit again.

I had met her at the beginning of freshman year. My dorm room was in one of three male-occupied floor towers. I was lonely and glad for any friends I could get. I had a long-distance girlfriend; she had a long-distance boyfriend, and being able to have someone to share these things with shunted the pain. She was nice to me.

And then she raped me.

When I regained my bearings that night, my friends were gone and gravity was a mystery to me. She was in my bed, and I couldn’t tell if my back was facing the ceiling or the mattress, nor could I identify whose sweat belonged to whom. All I could feel was pressure, and after coming to my senses I put together what was happening. I felt impotent to stop it.

The morning that followed came with a paradigm shift. I was embarrassed and shellshocked and refused to believe it had happened, even though she was next to me when I regained consciousness. As a man, I felt especially compelled to hide what happened to me, lest I come off as weak.

I asked her what had happened, and she confirmed all the details, which included consent and desire that seemed impossible to fish out of the folds of my brain.

At that point, I decided to own it. Because if I owned it, it wasn’t embarrassing and it didn’t strip me of my masculinity. I had never heard of this happening to anybody else, and researching it online made my problem seem more real to me, which was frightening.

Panic flooded me and all I wanted to do was scrub my soul of everything that was demoralizing and demasculinizing about the experience. My interpretation became consensual sex, and I proclaimed that sex was awesome, even though I had no clue what it felt like at all. I bragged to my neighbors, who could hear her wailing through paper-thin walls. The more I bragged, the more the agony subsided.

I was steadfast to make the loss of my virginity mean something. I immediately broke it off with my long-distance girlfriend. And my coping mechanism was to make my rapist my partner, giving purpose and intent to something horrible.

I put myself into a coma from reality. After dorm life, we split an apartment and shared a cat and grocery shopped and watched marathons of “America’s Next Top Model.” My family liked her a lot.

Eventually, writing became the vehicle that saved me. I started covering politics for local newspapers and music for an alt-weekly in Cleveland. Writing pulled me away from her, both physically and mentally, causing her web to seem a little less sticky. And then escaping my self-induced Stockholm Syndrome was within my grasp.


The path to admitting to other people what actually happened to me was a tricky one. But as I matured years after it occurred, I was able to grasp that my concept of masculinity was childish, and only rooted in weird stereotypes.

First it began with “Yeah, I barely remember losing my virginity” before I was able to actually use the R-word to describe what happened to me. I was able to eventually even tell my parents. To this day, I don’t think they were fully able to conceive what happened to me.

Being able to admit that I was raped brought my life into high-definition levels of clarity. Especially when everybody’s response was the same — an awkward pause, followed by a facial expression that goes hand-in-hand with being upset.

And then I pulled the trigger and I ended it.

One week after we broke up, she resorted to violence. When the cops came to our apartment and she refused to let them in after they threatened to break down the door, I felt like I was getting my first dose of reality in nearly two years. Days later, she was in another apartment a few football fields away. From that point on, I only saw her two more times on campus before fleeing Ohio.

While I’m able to talk about what happened to me 10 years later, make no mistake: being raped seriously damaged me and had a profound impact on how I engaged with women years after it happened. Looking back on everything, it had more of an impact than I realized: two of my next three relationships were with virgins (and stayed that way from beginning to end), which seemed like an anomaly as I was finishing up school. In my first relationship after the breakup, I dated someone for six months and never so much as took her clothes off. And while that might’ve frustrated others, it was exactly what I needed back then.

In the present day: I am “normal.” I can engage on my past with any stranger who’s willing to listen without feeling like I’m going to pass out or throw up. While it’s not something I think about every day, it passes through my mind every week through various triggers. It’s never going to leave me, and I’d like it to stay that way, as I’m not prepared to reject the strong person I’ve become throughout all of this.

To every man out there who has experienced something similar: You are not weak and you are not a boy. You were not bested or conquered; you were taken advantage of in a way that precludes all gender conventions. Recovering from rape is gender agnostic: it all begins with being able to admit what happened to you. However you choose to take that step — be it through therapy or confidentiality — is up to you.


By Anonymous

Street harassment

“I will never stop fighting” via Stop Street Harassment:

On September 20, 2013, I went outside to enjoy the weather and have lunch. I was having a stressful day and thought that being outside in the warm weather would give me a chance to clear my head. As I walked to Freedom Plaza, I passed by a man who appeared to be in his 50s who was with a group of people. As I walked past him, he said, “Hey, beautiful” at me. Whenever a man who is a stranger to me makes a comment like that, it doesn’t make me feel beautiful. It makes me feel tense, guarded, and uncomfortable that I’m being appraised by my appearance. He sat there looking at me as if he demanded a response.

“The only person I want to hear ‘hey, beautiful’ from is my man,” I said. “Not some random man on the street.” I’m not in a relationship, but if I were, that hypothetical boyfriend would be the only man I’d want to hear something like that from. And I made that comment because while I don’t like being seen as someone else’s property, oftentimes men who think like this only back off if they think that the woman is with someone else.

With this guy, it didn’t work. He went from calling me “beautiful” to calling me “ugly,” calling me a “bitch,” saying that I was “white” (because in his twisted mind, a black woman who wants nothing to do with a stranger who happens to be the same race is a “race traitor”), saying I was on Ritalin, and the ultimate insult, telling me that I “suck white man’s dick.” All this is the reason why I don’t accept compliments from men I don’t know – it’s never a compliment, it’s all about power and control.

When this happened, I lost my appetite and it was suddenly too hot to be outside. I managed to record as much as the incident as possible on a new phone that I was still learning how to use. I stood my ground, telling him that he should’ve risen up above being a black male stereotype, that he was a stranger to me and I don’t accept compliments from strangers, and that as many vulgar names as he used against me, I never did the same in return. Upset as I was, I did not stoop to his level. Another man who was with the harasser apologized on his behalf, though the harasser should’ve apologized. He even tried to get the harasser to stop it. The harasser told me that I should’ve said, “Thank you, brother” to him for a compliment that I never asked for. When the harasser looked like he was going to follow me, I called the police, though his friend begged me not to.

As I spoke with the dispatcher, I felt that nothing would come from the call. I wanted to move away from where the harasser was, but the 911 dispatcher gave me the impression that I should’ve stayed close by. I said that I needed to get back to the office, but there was no estimated time as to when the police would arrive. Knowing that I could risk being late to return to work and that the harasser would’ve been long gone by that point, I apologized for “wasting DC government resources” and told them to cancel the call.

I decided to head back to the office, the harassment adding to the stress that I was feeling prior to the incident. On the way back a man on the street tried to give me a rose (I noticed that he does not offer his roses to men who pass him by) and I said “no” a few times until he got the hint. Another man referred to me as “Boo-Boo,” a term that I find dumb and childish. I said that my name was not “Boo-Boo” and that he was to refer to me as “Miss or Ma’am.” He did not get the hint.

When I returned to the office, I was worn out. My body felt tense, my teeth were clenched, and I had to  internalize that for the remainder of the day. I used the little power left in my phone to update my Facebook status about the lunchtime harassment, but didn’t get to see the responses until after work since my phone died and I don’t log onto Facebook with my work computer. I kept my office door (in my case, a curtain) closed as much as possible, feeling the hurt and pain of this virulent and violent form of verbal harassment, and needing to be alone as much as possible to work through it.

This incident was not the first time I was harassed, nor will it be the last. I have been harassed since I was 16 years old, before I knew that there was a word for it. When I was younger I did not have the strength or the tools to stand up against it. I remember being in my late teens or early 20s and riding the bus, and a man old enough to be my grandfather sat next to me. He started talking to me, talking about how attractive I was, and I chose to ignore it. He assumed that I was deaf, so he started speaking in a more lewd manner and speaking about me in sexual terms. Since I was “deaf” I couldn’t break my facade and had to sit there and listen to his sexual commentary, yet even if I chose to break my facade, I was too fearful to.

I have been followed by men in their cars, physically threatened (one man threw punches close to my face because I dared to ignore him and tell him why), chased, and called every sexist and racist name in the book. The older I got and the more harassment that I experienced, I became more angry and started fighting back. Sometimes I’d yell back. Sometimes I’d curse. Sometimes I’d take photos and videos of the harassers. I’d even take more benign approaches, like ignoring them, or calmly explaining why I don’t like their behavior, or just giving a simple “no.” Sometimes these methods worked, sometimes they didn’t. My reactions depended on my mood, the time of day, and my safety level. Even with the number of anti-harassment trainings out there giving the tools on what to do and say when encountering a harasser, there’s no one correct way to handle street harassment – it’s about what works best for a person at that moment. That’s why I have no regrets on how I handled the recent harassment – I don’t take back anything I said, I don’t regret calling the police, nor do I regret canceling the call. Other people will nitpick my actions, but the only person’s opinion that’s important on the matter is my own.

People tend to blame the recipient of harassment. When sharing my stories, I get lots of feedback from people who support me and who get it. But the voices of those who don’t support me and who don’t get it are louder. I cannot count the number of times I’ve been told that I bring upon my own harassment. It’s because I’m beautiful. Because I should’ve accepted his compliment. Because I’m petite and look like an easy victim. Because I’m too hard on men. It’s because of how I was dressed. It’s because I’m a woman. Or I get told what I should’ve done. If I ignore it, I get told that I should’ve said something, but if I say something, I get told that I should’ve ignored it.

I also deal with the erasure of my stories. When I talk about dealing with intraracial harassment as a black woman, white women will dismiss my stories with, “It doesn’t only happen to black women.” That’s obvious. But instead of just listening, they interject into black women’s stories and try to make it about them. I can only speak from my experience as a black woman facing harassment, and these women should let me have the podium. White women’s stories are not universal, and everyone should have the freedom to talk about being harassed without being dismissed. Being harassed is hard enough in itself, and they don’t need to add to that feeling.

I have no idea why I get harassed so frequently, and trying to figure it out would be like blaming the victim. What I do know is that it’s taking its toll on me – I can only take unwanted attention turned insults from random men for so long before it wears on my psyche. I’ve been called “bitch” so many times that people would think it was my given name. I try to act tough but it gets to me. I’m always guarded, wearing my shades even when the sun’s not out, listening to an MP3 player to tune harassers out, and have my harassment radar set on high. Harassment makes me feel anxious and uncomfortable.

I live in a world where people aren’t comfortable with letting me be because I don’t conform to a group mentality. My identity and opinions are erased and people try to put their own labels on me. It’s this same mentality that gets me labeled “cold” because I’m not big on small talk and happy hours. One where racist people write me off as being “stupid” because of the color of my skin. Or one where others call me “mean” because I’m not a delicate woman who grins like an idiot. It’s the same mentality that has a harasser calling me a “bitch,” because when I defend my right to walk freely in a public space, I’m no longer an object to him, but an individual with thoughts and ideas, and he finds that threatening.

I became a member of Arlington Independent Media late last year. AIM is a nonprofit organization that provides its members with the tools to create their own public access programming. Since taking many classes at AIM, I’ve become active in volunteering on different productions while getting the feel for their camera equipment. When I passed a certification test to use the organization’s field equipment I was ready to produce my own content. I thought that my first production would be short and lighthearted (I’ve always wanted to do sitcoms), but summer was starting up and I felt that that would be the best time to do a documentary on street harassment. I spent hours interviewing different people and organizations active in the fight against street harassment, had volunteer crews come out with me to tape different anti-harassment events, and inadvertently got video footage of my harassers in action (such as the above-mentioned harassment incident).

The documentary will be edited soon and won’t be out until the end of the year. While dealing with harassment is beyond tiresome, getting together to talk about it will never become old. We need to keep telling these stories and keep sharing these stories. And as worn out and mentally beaten as I am from being harassed so frequently, I will never stop fighting in the battle against it.

Dienna Howard is an artist who recently had work featured at the Target Gallery and Convergence, both in Alexandria, VA. Dienna is a volunteer/producer for Arlington Independent Media, and through that organization is currently producing her first documentary, one on the issue of street harassment.