Tag Archives: Prevention

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Challenging rape culture on college campuses

White House Report on Sexual Assault: we need to dig deeper, via NSVRC:

Last week, I was happy to see the release of the new report from the White House Council on Women and Girls, Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action.  I, like many, was excited to find out what this “renewed call to action” was all about.  As I flipped through the report, I was struck by the number of accomplishments that have been achieved over the past several years when it comes to responding to sexual violence.  Improving the criminal justice, legal, medical, and institutional response to sexual violence is vital in our efforts to address sexual violence.  These efforts play a key role in the comprehensive approach to preventing, and ultimately eliminating, sexual violence.

But when it comes to primary prevention, I felt that the report fell short.   There is mention of culture change, which I appreciate.  But that seems to be the buzz phrase of the hour right now.   A huge (and I would argue a most important) piece of the prevention puzzle is still missing.  What I want is a deeper discussion of the culture we are trying to change.  Most of the prevention efforts in the report focus on the bystander engagement approach and involving men in social norms change efforts.  We ask these bystanders to get involved, men to get involved, and also some organizations to change.  But culture change is bigger than that.

I’m a fan of many bystander engagement programs.  But many of these programs put most of the focus on changing individual behavior.  I would love to see more programs, especially on campuses, that focus on a broader approach to helping systems and organizations in challenging rape culture.  I was so excited this morning to listen to two amazing women talk about what they are doing to address power-based violence and rape culture on their campuses.   Check out this PreventConnect podcast with Vickie Sides from the University of Chicago and Rachel Caidor from the University of Illinois at Chicago as they talk about the need to dig deeper and challenge rape culture as part of our sexual violence prevention efforts.   I hope it is as inspiring to you as it was to me.

I’ve been doing this work for 16 years now.  I remember a time when we were barely scratching the surface when it came to prevention work.  Many of the current prevention programs are starting to dig beyond that surface.  But we need to dig deeper if we want to get to the root of the issue.

What are your thoughts on the White House report?  What are your ideas for “digging deeper”?

“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.

Responsibility of the community to keep children safe

Every Sunday throughout April, Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services will have a guest column in the SunJournal. Each column will discuss a different aspect of sexual violence, as well as prevention & education efforts.

Here is the 4th and final article from one of our our Education Coordinators!

I walk into a first-grade classroom with an armload of 30 makeshift hula hoops shaped like a raindrop rather than a circle. They are blue and have a mass of silver duct tape at the point of the raindrop shape.

The students in the class are smiling and quietly say to each other and to me “Space Ships!”

These “space ships” are one of the tools that we have been using since 2007 to teach the self-empowerment and personal space to children in elementary school. In some schools, by the spring of first grade, a child will have “played” with these space ships three times.

Teaching children about personal body safety and sexual abuse prevention is a careful endeavor. At Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services, we approach the issue by teaching different concepts that build on one another and create a firm foundation before we even start talking specifically about sexual harassment or sexual assault.

The first concept we teach is that of personal body space.

By using the “spaceships,” we take a theoretical concept and make it visual, so all the children can “see” it and understand it.

They can see that we move through our day and our need for personal body space might change depending on circumstance, or on which person we are interacting with.

The space ships allow the children to experience the concept of their own personal body space and respect the right of each other to maintain that space. This activity also helps children to understand and learn about healthy boundaries and consent — key concepts in sexual assault prevention.

By third grade, we focus our presentations on team work and interdependence. Using games designed to encourage the students to maintain their own individual personal space while being part of a group, we explore concepts of leadership, group dynamics and how to problem-solve in a fair and positive way so that all members of a team feel included and are safe.

We also talk about their responsibility to one another, which lays the groundwork for conversations about how to be a proactive bystander and help other students when it looks like they are being hurt.

Our presentations in fourth grade explicitly focus on gossip, rumors and bystander behaviors.

Again, using games to explore these concepts, the students are able to meet and address these potentially scary concepts in a developmentally appropriate and fun fashion.

We give the students a tube of toothpaste and ask them to squeeze it out onto a paper plate. We can then talk about what a mess it made. Then we ask them to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Of course they cannot get more than a dab back in the tube.

We can then begin the discussion about how words can make a mess and that, once said, they cannot be taken back. This helps us to talk with the students about bullying and what a mess it can create and how it cannot be undone.That lays a solid foundation for later presentations about appropriate Internet/social media use.

In fifth and sixth grades, we actively engage the students in conversations about Internet safety and harassment issues.

Because they have had all of the concept and skill-building presentations in prior years, they have the ability to apply those lessons to these very important topics and understand them in a more fundamental way.

Throughout these presentations, we talk with the students about the importance of getting help from a grownup when they or someone else is being hurt or in danger of being hurt. We help them to identify who those grownups might be, and what they should expect in the way of help from those adults.

All of our presentations can be presented as stand-alone material, but we find that they work best all together. Our presentations build upon each other, creating a framework of understanding, built year after year.

We believe it is the responsibility of the community to help keep our children safe from harm.

While it is the adults who should be responsible for sexual abuse prevention, our programs provide our children with the concepts and skills necessary to help keep themselves safe. And, they teach children lifelong skills that will help them each to understand and seek out safe, healthy relationships.

Bridget McAlonan is the SACC Education Coordinator for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services.

Be Aware, Not Afraid

(A guest blog, written by Maggie P., a Practicum student at SAVES, the Franklin County office of Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services.  Thank you, Maggie!)

As a female, I have always been taught to recognize and defend myself against those who may cause me harm.  For example, my parents started telling me from a young age to not walk alone at night, to avoid unfamiliar places, and to keep my guard up at all times when interacting with strangers.  This dialogue is common among adolescent females and their protectors, so I never thought anything of it.  As I have grown older, and have become more aware of the world around me, the idea of my parents telling me to be constantly afraid seems ridiculous.  When I came to college at the University of Maine at Farmington, I was given a “rape whistle” in my orientation packet.  It was a joke among my friends, and no one took the tool seriously, especially because there was a $25 fine if you blew it when not in crisis.  I just learned recently, however, that only females were given these whistles; male students had the option as to whether or not they wanted one.  Seriously?  I took this information to be very offensive, as did the other females I was with who found out.  I understand that the university is just trying to protect their female students, but to only assume that we would be the victim of rape or sexual violence is absolutely absurd.  Many people associate sexual violence with the female gender because we are most often seen as vulnerable and, statistically, we are the majority of the victims.  People seem to overlook the fact that 1 in 5 males will be the victim of some sort of sexual violence other than rape at some point in their lifetime (Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault).  I don’t know whether this is due to a lack of education or people’s own choice to overlook the fact, but sexual violence can happen to anyone.  In high schools and universities, this statement should be reinforced.  Maybe this would open young people’s eyes to the severity of sexual violence among all genders, races, and ages.  Education is the best way to prevent sexual violence; not encouraging young females to constantly be on guard and on the defense.  When I was in high school, I don’t remember any lessons in my health class that focused on sexual violence or rape.  I understand that some people still see it as a taboo subject, but without education there can be no progression.  If we continue to just reinforce the defense method to young adult females, and completely ignore young adult males, sexual assault statistics are never going to change.  Schools need to implement education programs, get facts to their students, and encourage the younger generations to be aware instead of just afraid.

 

*Trigger warning* but very important information.

From The Atlantic:

America Has An Incest Problem

People are rightly horrified by abuse scandals at Penn State and in the Catholic church. But what about children who are molested by their own family members?

Last year offered plenty of moments to have a sustained national conversation about child sexual abuse: the Jerry Sandusky verdict, the BBC’s Jimmy Savile, Horace Mann’s faculty members, and a slew of slightly less publicized incidents. President Obama missed the opportunity to put this issue on his second-term agenda in his inaugural speech.

Child sexual abuse impacts more Americans annually than cancer, AIDS, gun violence, LGBT inequality, and the mortgage crisis combined—subjects that Obama did cover.

Had he mentioned this issue, he would have been the first president to acknowledge the abuse that occurs in the institution that predates all others: the family. Incest was the first form of institutional abuse, and it remains by far the most widespread.

Here are some statistics that should be familiar to us all, but aren’t, either because they’re too mind-boggling to be absorbed easily, or because they’re not publicized enough. One in three-to-four girls, and one in five-to-seven boys are sexually abused before they turn 18, an overwhelming incidenceof which happens within the family. These statistics are well known among industry professionals, who are often quick to add, “and this is a notoriously underreported crime.”

Incest is a subject that makes people recoil. The word alone causes many to squirm, and it’s telling that of all of the individual and groups of perpetrators who’ve made national headlines to date, virtually none have been related to their victims. They’ve been trusted or fatherly figures (some in a more literal sense than others) from institutions close to home, but not actual fathers, step-fathers, uncles, grandfathers, brothers, or cousins (or mothers and female relatives, for that matter). While all abuse is traumatizing, people outside of a child’s home and family—the Sanduskys, the teachers and the priests—account for far fewer cases of child sexual abuse.

To answer the questions always following such scandals—why did the victims remain silent for so long, how and why were the offending adults protected, why weren’t the police involved, how could a whole community be in such denial?—one need only realize that these institutions are mirroring the long-established patterns and responses to sexual abuse within the family. Which are: Deal with it internally instead of seeking legal justice and protection; keep kids quiet while adults remain protected and free to abuse again.

Intentionally or not, children are protecting adults, many for their entire lives. Millions of Americans, of both sexes, choke down food at family dinners, year after year, while seated at the same table as the people who violated them. Mothers and other family members are often complicit, grown-ups playing pretend because they’re more invested in the preservation of the family (and, often, the family’s finances) than the psychological, emotional, and physical well-being of the abused.

So why is incest still relegated to the hushed, shadowy outskirts of public and personal discussion, particularly given how few subjects today remain too controversial or taboo to discuss? Perhaps it’s because however devastating sexual molestation by a trusted figure is, it’s still more palatable than the thought of being raped by one’s own flesh and blood. Or is it?

Consider how the clergy abuse shook Catholics to their core, causing internal division and international disenchantment with a religion that was once the bedrock of entire nations. Consider the fallout from Sandusky’s actions and Penn State’s cover-up, both for students and football. Consider how distressing it is for Brits to now come to terms with the fact that the man they watched every night on TV in their living rooms was routinely raping kids just before going on air.

Given the prevalence of incest, and that the family is the basic unit upon which society rests, imagine what would happen if every kid currently being abused—and every adult who was abused but stayed silent—came out of the woodwork, insisted on justice, and saw that justice meted out. The very fabric of society would be torn. Everyone would be affected, personally and professionally, as family members, friends, colleagues, and public officials suddenly found themselves on trial, removed from their homes, in jail, on probation, or unable to live and work in proximity to children; society would be fundamentally changed, certainly halted for a time, on federal, state, local, and family levels. Consciously and unconsciously, collectively and individually, accepting and dealing with the full depth and scope of incest is not something society is prepared to do.

In fact society has already unraveled; the general public just hasn’t realized it yet. Ninety-five percent of teen prostitutes and at least one-third of female prisoners were abused as kids. Sexually abused youth are twice as likely to be arrested for a violent offense as adults, are at twice the risk for lifelong mental health issues, and are twice as likely to attempt or commit teen suicide. The list goes on. Incest is the single biggest commonality between drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness, teenage and adult prostitution, criminal activity, and eating disorders. Abused youths don’t go quietly into the night. They grow up—and 18 isn’t a restart button.

How can the United States possibly realize its full potential when close to a third of the population has experienced psychic and/or physical trauma during the years they’re developing neurologically and emotionally—forming their very identity, beliefs, and social patterns? Incest is a national nightmare, yet it doesn’t have people outraged, horrified, and mobilized as they were following Katrina, Columbine, or 9/11.

A combination of willed ignorance, unconscious fears, and naivete have resulted in our failure to acknowledge this situation’s full scope, but we can only claim ignorance for so long. Please reread the statistics in this post, share them with people you know, and realize that each and every one of us needs to pressure the government, schools, and other systems to prioritize this issue. Let’s make this the last inaugural address in which incest and child sexual abuse are omitted, because the way things are now, adults are living in a fantasy land while children are forced to slay the real-life demons.

(Source:  http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/01/america-has-an-incest-problem/272459/)

 

Break The Chain – One Billion Rising

It’s almost time to Break The Chains!

“Today, on the planet, a billion women – one of every three women on the planet – will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That’s ONE BILLION mothers, daughters, sisters, partners, and friends violated. V-Day REFUSES to stand by as more than a billion women experience violence.

On February 14th, 2013, V-Day’s 15th Anniversary, we are inviting one billion women and those who love them to walk out, DANCE, RISE UP, AND DEMAND an end to this violence. One Billion Rising is a promise that we will rise up with women and men worldwide to say, ‘Enough! The violence ends now.’ ”

Break the Chain Lyrics

Lyrics by Tena Clark
Music by Tena Clark/Tim Heintz

Intro-
I raise my arms to the sky
On my knees I pray
I’m not afraid anymore
I will walk through that door
Walk, dance, rise
Walk, dance, rise

I can see a world where we all live
Safe and free from all oppression
No more rape or incest, or abuse
Women are not a possession

You’ve never owned me, don’t even know me I’m not invisible, I’m simply wonderful I feel my heart for the first time racing I feel alive, I feel so amazing

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
Its time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain
Dance, rise
Dance, rise

In the middle of this madness, we will stand I know there is a better world Take your sisters & your brothers by the hand Reach out to every woman & girl

This is my body, my body’s holy
No more excuses, no more abuses
We are mothers, we are teachers,
We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
It’s time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain

Dance Break Inst.

Dance, rise
Dance, rise

Sister won’t you help me, sister won’t you rise x4

Dance, rise
Dance, rise

Sister won’t you help me, sister won’t you rise x4

This is my body, my body’s holy
No more excuses, no more abuses
We are mothers, we are teachers,
We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
Its time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain

(Repeat chorus)

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Throughout this month, our School-Based Advocates will be working with local area teens to educate and raise awareness around the issues.

National Statistics: 

* Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year
* 1 in 3 teens in the US is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence
* 1 in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend
* 1/4 of high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse

[For Teens]:

*  If you are in an abusive relationship…please talk to somebody that you trust:  parent, teacher, etc.  It’s okay to get help.
*  Know that it’s not your fault, and that you are not alone.  You deserve to be happy, and feel loved.  “Love is NOT abuse.”

[For Parents – tips for talking to your teens about healthy relationships]:

* Share the facts about healthy relationships…be sure to listen respectfully to your teen’s answer, even if you don’t agree. Then you can offer your opinion and explore other options together
* Set rules for dating…as kids get older, they gain more independence and freedom. However, teens still need parents to set boundaries and expectations for their behavior.
* Be a role model…you can teach your kids a lot by treating them and others with respect.
* Talk to your kids about sex…teach your children the facts about their bodies, sex, and relationships. Talking to your kids about sex may not be easy, but it’s important. You can help them stay healthy and make good choices as they grow up.
* Talk to your teen about any concerns…write down the reasons you are worried. Listen to your teen calmly, and thank him/her for opening up.

(Sources: healthfinder.gov & teendvmonth.org)

 

Survivor’s Words

Aftermath of a Flashback
By Anonymous  

It came with no warning, all the pain, sorrow, anguish, and horror.  The memory of rape is just as ugly as the rape itself.  Now that I remember, the hurt is hard to bear.  I must go on.  I have a son to feed, car payments to make, bills to pay, work to do, and school to attend.  The sorrow is like a dark, stormy cloud that is ready to explode its storm all over the place.  I’m tired of going on.  I must take responsibility for the running of my life.  I must use every ounce of energy I have just to get out of my safe bed.  I know I must live in today and trudge through this.  This is a part of the “healing” journey called recovery from rape.  Does my rapist go through this?  Probably not. He is happy in life.  I am not!  I’m angry that I have to do this while he sits back as if nothing has happened.  I wish I could too, but that is not a reality for me.  No matter how good I feel or successful I am, I will never be able to forget.  From time to time memories, flashbacks, and nightmares will happen.  yes I’ll go on with life, I’ll do my part to make this world better for survivors like me.  I may even have to arrange my life around all this stuff so that I can pick up the pieces of the rape and then move on.  Today, the weather fits me.  It is dark, damp, and ready to burst forth with tears, but holding them back until “the time is right.”  There is a chill that surrounds me.  There is also warmth in the air, it is a sign of hope that I’ll get better and survive.

 

(If you would like to submit a poem or story, for our blog, newsletter, and/or other social media sites, please e-mail SAVESoutreach@sapars.org.  Thank you!)

October is National Bullying Prevention Month

Have you seen this video yet?

After receiving an e-mail where she was bullied about her weight, Anchorwoman, Jennifer Livingston, gives an amazing response to her bully via YouTube.  She also voices some inspiring words to the countless people who are bullied every single day, which includes: “do not let your self-worth be defined by bullies.”

If you, or someone you know is being bullied – at school, on the Internet, anywhere – please speak up.  You do not deserve to be treated badly, and there are people who want to support you.  If you do not feel safe, or comfortable confiding in someone you know, you can always call one of our advocates at 1-800-871-7741.  You are not alone.