Sexual Violence

Making messages about sexual violence relevant and fund-worthy

In 2008, I created a presentation for a nonprofit management class at Boston College‘s Carroll School of Management on the messaging and funding challenges for organizations that work in the sexual violence arena.  This work came out of my experience as a volunteer at a local rape crisis center and nearly ten years of development and fundraising experience.   My biggest insight as a fundraiser, and as a human, is that messaging is as much as what people hear as it is what you say.  And the fact of the matter is, when someone says rape, most people tune out because it is too painful and difficult to absorb.  The way around this is to build the conversation around topics that are more comfortable - education, public health, children and youth, and/or economic development - and start drawing the line from there to sexual assault.   My hope is that more state coalitions will think creatively about how to discuss sexual assault and violence in a way that attracts both funding and strategic communications partners that reach large numbers of people.  There are ways to do this that require minimal resources, and leverage connections for the largest possible impact.  My guess is that, working together, state coalitions can find powerful partners who understand the message and will work with them to create change together.   Through the research for this presentation, I met Cat Fribley, who runs the National Resource Sharing Project, a coalition of state coalitions against sexual violence and assault, which led to a connection at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. The presentation is now being incorporated into a technical assistance guide for state coalitions and rape crisis centers across the country.  [...]

By |January 10th, 2010|Sexual Violence|Comments Off

Open Letter to Governor Patrick and State Legislators: Restore funding for programs that support survivors of sexual assault

Dear Governor Patrick, I’m writing as your constituent to urge you to sign the $400K included in the FY2010 supplemental budget for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program. (Line Item 4510-0810 of the Department of Public Health).   I also urge you to match these funds of $600K from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services so that funding to these important programs can be fully restored.   The SANE Program is critical to survivors of rape and sexual assault, but is only one of what is already too few important programs that support survivors.  I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. This abuse resulted in years of depression and a long battle with eating disorders.  As a teenager, I questioned whether I had a future, and didn’t know whether my future would hold those things that most people take for granted: love, safety, trust, and happiness.   Fortunately, my story has a happy ending. Thanks to a decade of excellent individual and group therapy treatment, I was able to heal from these traumas.  I needed long-term, professional treatment to stop hurting myself, start trusting people, and begin building a positive life for myself.  Today, I lead a happy and productive life and make a positive social and economic impact on society.  I have a great job, wonderful friends, and a loving, caring relationship.  I pay taxes and I give back to the community in other ways -  through service, through my career, and through advocacy.   However, I consider myself one of the lucky ones.  I was only able to access these services because I came from a privileged family who was able to pay for them out of pocket.  My family [...]

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    Not OK By the Numbers:  The Rapist’s Fate Not OK By the Numbers:  The Rapist’s Fate

    Not OK By the Numbers: The Rapist’s Fate

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Not OK By the Numbers: The Rapist’s Fate

  If there is a crime to get away with, it is rape.  Only 16% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail.  Read about it on the RAINN website. Artwork by Paul Pierson

By |November 16th, 2009|Sexual Violence|Comments Off

Movements and Minga

I recently met Katie Simon, a senior at Concord Academy, and the founder of this amazing group called Minga.  Minga is an organization focused on organizing youth to raise awareness about the child sex trade.  Katie's opinion is that we have have an opportunity to educate youth so that they won't become the next generation of pimps and offenders.  This year, they are reaching out to 5,000 youth through empowerment and awareness events.  As is often the case, bringing voice and breaking silence on the issue is the most important action step we can take. As we were talking, I thought about the connections she could make to others who are working on this important issue, and the related issues of sexual trauma and assault.  Katie has the right idea - make sexual violence a part of the mainstream conversation and you can start to change the way we think about it.  At the same time, I wonder whether there are other organizations out there doing similar work.  My hope is that people like Katie can connect to great organizations like the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, RAINN, and state coalitions against sexual violence.  And unnatural allies in the corporate world and larger non-profit sector.  There is a tremendous opportunity to work together to raise the profile of work to end sexual violence.  It's too hard to work in silos - rape, child abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking.  Instead, we need to find a way to work together.  To create a new conversation about these issues that can stick.  In the meantime, if we can cultivate a generation of Katie Simons, imagine the kind of change we could bring to the world.

By |October 29th, 2009|Sexual Violence|Comments Off

Girl, I would build cities for you

What would you say to your closest friend if she were raped or sexual assaulted?  How would you respond?  What words of comfort would you offer him? Sometimes, we are afraid to say anything.  We are afraid to say the wrong thing, or not the best thing.  Or, we might be afraid that there is nothing we could say that would bring comfort. Many years ago, I organized an event that challenged people to find something to say to a survivor.  We created a display of hearts with messages of hope and healing to survivors.  With a little encouragement, so many people created beautiful messages. Today, say something.  Say anything.  Say the thing you wished you had said.  Or say the thing you wished someone had said to you. 

Same story, 12 years later.

When I was in college at Brown University, there was a date rape case that received national media attention thanks to John Stossel at 20/20.   The campus was in an uproar over whether or not a male student had sexually assaulted a female student while they were both allegedly intoxicated.  The story quickly devolved into a he-said, she-said fiasco, and the narrative around the story was about whether women lied about being raped and whether women who drank deserved what they got.  The larger story was quickly forgotten. At the time, I was enraged by this, and wrote a very appropriate, impassioned argument to our student newspaper about the real facts about sexual assault. Here is an excerpt: In the ten minutes it takes a Brown student to read the opinion section of the BDH, 13 women are raped.  That adds up to 78 per hour, 1871 a day, 56,916 per month, and 683,000 American women every year.  …But let’s break this number down even further.  61% of all forcible rapes take place BEFORE the age of 18…One third of all rape victims will develop Post Traumatic Stress disorder, 6.2 times the amount of women who have never been victimized.  One third of rape victims will seriously consider suicide, 13% will actually make an attempt.  Women who have been raped are much more likely to struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. The false reporting rate of rape is approximately 2%, similar to other crimes.  This statistic is given by the FBI. Most of the time, women do not even press charges.  The FBI estimates that 1 out of 10 women reports sexual assault.  Out of 100 assaults, 10 are reported.  Men’s fear of false accusations [...]