Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thoughts on the Survivor Speak Out

Thanks so much to everyone who attended this year's Speak Out. It was an incredible success, with one of the largest turn outs in recent years. The compassion and support provided by those present, allies and survivors alike, was wonderful. This year, we asked speakers and supporters to light a candle as a visible show of their strength and support.

We also asked attendees to write one word that described their experience or feelings at the close of the event. Here are some of the words they came up with.
Finally, here is how some students felt after attending, in their own words:

I thought Speak Out was amazing. It was emotional with all of the sharing of such personal heartfelt stories, but it was also empowering. There was palpable support in the entire room throughout the evening. It really made me feel part of a community full of love and support, even though I didn't personally know many people in the room. The bravery of all the people there, both to share and absorb stories, was shocking to me. This was by far the best Speak Out I have ever attended!  - Kara Marsh
The new set up made it feel more intimate. - Lauren McIntosh 
It was amazing. Sitting there and realizing just how prevalent sexual violence is in our society, and being astounded at how many girls thought they couldn't say anything for fear of being blamed - it was powerful. I will never forget it. - Sam Arnold
The strength of those who spoke was inspiring in a culture that often silences survivors. - Emily Rion 
Thanks again to everyone who came out and supported survivors at this years Speak Out. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Survivor Speak Out

SAPAC will be hosting our annual Survivor Speak Out this Thursday, November 8th. This event is a forum for survivors of sexual assault, stalking, intimate partner violence, and harassment to share their stories and break the silence surrounding sexual violence. Survivors and their allies are invited to join us from 7 to 9 pm in the Michigan Union Ballroom.

There will be a short debrief at the SAPAC Office in the basement of the Union.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Film Screening: Half the Sky

On Tuesday, October 23 the Sexual Assault Prevention andAwareness Center will be showing the documentary
Half the Sky in the Rackham Ampitheater.

Half the Sky is based on a book by Nicholas Kristof, which examines the oppression of women across the world.

We hope that you will join us for the screening and the following discussion.

The Rackham Building is located at 950 E. Washington St.  Doors open at 7:00 and the film begins at 7:30.

The book and documentary have sparked a global movement, with organizations everywhere showing the film.  The film has been both celebrated and critiqued, provoking important discussions about the status of women in the Global South, and what people in the U.S. can or should do about gender inequality around the world. 

To learn more about Half the Sky, and see what people are saying about it, see the reviews and comments below:

New York Times Book Review, "Changing Lives": “Half the Sky” tackles atrocities and indignities from sex trafficking to maternal mortality, from obstetric fistulas to acid attacks, and absorbing the fusillade of horrors can feel like an assault of its own. But the poignant portraits of survivors humanize the issues, divulging facts that moral outrage might otherwise eclipse.  

HuffPost Review, "Half the Sky":  "What Nick and Sheryl have done is lay out a case for why empowering women in the developing world is both morally right and strategically imperative. Their essential message is that Lifting Women Lifts the World."

Racialicious Review, "Your Women are Oppressed, But Ours Are Awesome":  "Inspired by a book co-written by Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, and supported by talking head cameos from the likes of Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem, George Clooney, and officials from the United Nations, CARE, and other non profit and development organizations, the film, unfortunately, reeks of KONY 2012 style missteps." 

The Atlantic Review, "The White Savior Industrial Complex": "The white savior supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening."

The Guardian Review, "How the Other Half Suffer": "The authors describe brutality towards women as "a malignancy that is slowly gaining recognition as one of the paramount human rights problems of this century." Raising awareness of brutality towards women is not a slow process; the problem is rather that the flash of outrage soon dissipates, to lie dormant until somebody or something triggers it again, while the vileness carries inexorably on, partly because the concerned public is unaware of its own misogyny."

Amherst College Student's Account of Sexual Assault

A former Amherst College student wrote this incredibly moving account of an assault by a fellow student, and the school administration's awful response to her suffering.

"An Account of Sexual Assault at Amherst College"
Trigger warning

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization

The Republican party counter-bill of the VAWA reauthorization, which removed provisions from the original bill that extended services to immigrant, Native American, and LGBT survivors, has passed in the House of Representatives. This bill is a huge step back in the fight to end sexual violence. By specifically denying services to populations that are already vulnerable or under served, this bill would exacerbate the already disproportionate violence committed against these groups.

This is a great segment from Rachel Maddow, that really sums up how messed up this all is:

-Emily, NPA Volunteer

Friday, April 27, 2012

Thoughts on the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference 2012

I feel so lucky to have been able to go to the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference in DC! I was inspired by all the other university students looking to expand their program or create one. The general assemblies were packed full of lectures from a wide range of speakers addressing the issues of sexual assault, HIV/AIDS, the LGBTQ movement and feminist work done on the international level. I felt I gained new skills and ambition to tackle the issues of sexual violence back here on our campus. After meeting many different people, I realized how progressive SAPAC is an a student organization, with positive behavior workshops and specific outlets to get men involved in the movement. I found that I have taken for granted the institutional infrastructure that allows SAPAC to continue to exist after students graduate and leave. 

I felt that the most rewarding part of our trip was the opportunity to meet with staffers from Senator Stabenow's office on Capital Hill! i became interested in seeing how our work could translate into political action, political action that took place in the Senate and in the Congress! I loved hearing their stories of how they came to find their passions in public service and how they began working for Senator Stabenow. Both were excited to hear about our Men's Activism program and about the new Relationship Remix workshop. 
As a PE, I was so happy to have been able to meet and spend time with the other volunteers from the NPA and the MA programs. They were awesome to road trip with and I am so happy to have gotten to know them better.

One of my favorite parts of our trip to D.C. besides getting to know people from SAPAC that I didn't previously know was the Regional Caucus.  This was a part during the conference when students from around the country got together by region and spoke about the feminist work they were conducting at their universities.  I was excited to know that SAPAC is ahead in a lot of the work we conduct.  We were able to help give other schools ideas on how to start doing workshops and events of their own to generate awareness about healthy relationships and preventing sexual assault on campuses.

“It’s great being around likeminded people” was a common statement mentioned during the three days SAPAC spent at the National Youth Feminist Leadership Conference (NYFLC) hosted by the Feminist Majority Foundation. Participants enjoyed the comfortable space this conference offered to feminists of all walks of life. One of the strengths of the trip was being likeminded, yet different.  I learned a lot from our guest speakers, but also from the comments, advice, and experiences of other attendees. The open dialogues I witnessed several people engaging in (myself included) were powerful.  Even among our small group of seven SAPACers was an interesting exchange of perspectives on a plethora of topics (including what items are best paired with peanut butter ). For me (and I’m undoubtedly bias) one of the highlights of the trip was speaking to the congressional staffers from Senator Debbie Stabenow’s office. These two young women were genuinely interested in knowing what SAPAC achieved on campus, our presence, tremendous success, and ambitions for the program.  Ms. Alexander and Ms. Rivera also offered the group valuable resources to stay in more regular contact with our elected representatives.  Overall, as I’m sure any participant would agree, the NYFLC conference was a valuable and rewarding trip. Thanks SAPAC!

The National Young Feminist Leadership Conference provided a space for both learning from and interacting with other feminist organizations around the country. One of my favorite aspects of this conference was the wide representation of females, males, and transgender alike, which served as an important reminder (and hopefully takeaway message) that feminism is not only a woman’s issue. Due to this wide representation of participants, I was very excited to attend our Midwest Caucus workshop, where SAPAC got to hear the great feminist work going on in our area. The only regret is not having more time to truly get acquainted with our fellow feminists at the conference.

Personally, one of my favorite parts of this conference was the Reforming Rape Culture and Responding to Sexual Assault on Campus Workshop. This workshop had a fantastic and inspiring panel, including Angela Rose, founder of PAVE (Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment); Rhett Walker from Men Can Stop Rape; Emily Greytak from SAFER (Students Active for Ending Rape); and Ariana Katz from the Boston University Center for Gender, Sexuality, and Activism. This workshop allowed participants to see how each of these organizations worked, in terms of policy and day-to-day organization. Prior to this workshop, I did not have a lot of knowledge of other rape crisis organizations around the country, so it was incredibly refreshing and comforting to be surrounded by other organizations that share our goals and support our work!

Furthermore, it was an absolutely amazing experience going to Capitol Hill and having the opportunity to speak with members of Debbie Stabenow’s staff! The staffers we met with were incredibly welcoming, very interested in SAPAC’s initiatives and goals, and gave us some great advice about how to continue our work both at SAPAC and as activists in general. It was truly a wonderful meeting, and a major shout out to the Men’s Activism Program at SAPAC for funding our extra night’s stay so we could make this possible!

And lastly, this trip was a great opportunity for some pan-SAPAC bonding! It was wonderful to spend the weekend with new and familiar volunteers alike, both in workshop and on the town! A major thank-you to SAPAC for allowing us to take this journey together!

Overall, the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference was an amazing experience. It was so wonderful to be able to connect with other campus activists from all over the country, especially those who have incredibly active. My favorite speaker by far was Sandra Fluke. She gave incredibly practical advise on how to really make a difference, something she is well practiced in doing. Her advise stuck with me: Find an issue, something tangible that people can rally around, and get it fixed. Think outside the box to try and get other people involved. Stay level-headed.

I wish more of the conference had given me more practical advise such as this, but the workshops I attended were fascinating nonetheless. My favorite workshop hit close to my SAPAC home: Reforming Rape Culture and Responding to Sexual Assault on College Campuses. The speakers were amazing, and it was nice to hear about what people were doing on a national level to combat sexual violence.

Also, getting to meet with staffers from Debbie Stabenow's office was incredible.

This really was a wonderful experience, and I'm so grateful that I got to go.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

PETA's sexist advertising

"People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals" (PETA) seems to come with a caveat or two. Especially if you, like me, consider sexism and objectification of women unethical. PETA, however, seems to have no such qualms. They have a long history of offensive and sexist ads, whose only goal seems to be to offend enough people to get attention. Here is a list of some of the worst ads in PETA's history.

PETA knows what it's doing is offensive. That's what they're trying to do, in a misguided and immoral attempt to get attention. In fact, the first FAQ on their website "Why does PETA sometimes use nudity in its campaigns?" has this lovely tidbit:
"...colorful and 'controversial' demonstrations and campaigns like activists stripping to 'go naked instead of wearing fur' consistently grab headlines."
Their most recent ad depicts a pants-less woman in a neck brace hobbling through the street, because apparently her boyfriend went vegan or something. This ad normalizes violence against women by implying that people should want their boyfriend have them end up in a neck brace. Bitch magazine has an excellent critique.

Also, PETA has sunk to the lowest of the low by announcing plans to launch its own porn site. Now, I have nothing against porn per se, but when an ANIMAL RIGHTS organization is so desperate for attention that they will start a porn site, something is seriously wrong. More on that here.

The bottom line is that PETA is acting incredibly irresponsibly, and is muddling its message in cries for attention and unnecessary sexism. People should absolutely treat others ethically, and PETA would do well to remember that that includes women.

-Emily, NPA Volunteer

Project Unbreakable

I found a really interesting art project - a woman photographs rape and sexual assault survivors along with words that their attackers said to them. This is an incredibly moving art project because it places the viewer in such close contact with survivors. Be warned that there is triggering content and the material can be very upsetting.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Yale Quarterback Accused of Sexual Assault

This article was found on the blog Jezebel, and describes how Yale quarterback Patrick Witt was accused of sexual assault by another Yale student. The description of this event was very vague and the media portrayed it as though it was the victim's fault for not reporting it, yet there can be many reasons that a survivor would not want to report a sexual assault. Also, this is just one more example of an athlete being accused of sexual assault and not facing any repercussions (as of the publishing of this article). Athletes should not be held to different standards than the rest of society and have to set an example, since their lives are covered more heavily by the media.

See article here:

Monday, February 6, 2012

One Step Closer

I'm sure you have heard about the changed definition of rape in the FBI Uniform Crime Report.  The old definition, created over 80 years ago, has been replaced with the new: “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim."  This is a huge milestone for sexual assault prevention and awareness activists, with huge implications for more accurate crime statistics at the national level.  This new definition will abolish many stereotypes surrounding rape including the misconception that all survivors are women- as persisted by the old definition of rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will”. In addition, a step away from victim-blaming ensues as the removal of “forcibly” in the definition means that proof of physical resistance by the survivor is not a necessity.  The addition of consent is a major improvement as well.
The Feminist Majority Foundation's website celebrates the promise the new definition will bring to more accurate reporting statistics and praises its collaborative, “Rape is Rape campaign that contributed to the push for a new definition. However, our work is not done.    The new definition will only provide a broader definition for what local and state level police choose to report. Eric Holder, attorney general, describes in the UCR update, "
The new definition does not change federal or state criminal codes or impact charging and prosecution on the local level." State crime reporting to the UCR is voluntary, and the action taken to acknowledge rape crimes within a state varies across the nation.
On another note, I mentioned that consent was an important addition, however, education on exactly what consent means, and coercion for that matter, from a primary prevention standpoint, can make this new definition even more effective.  (Kudos to SAPAC's Relationship Remix!) 
The UCR program will also collect data based on the historical definition of rape, and compare it to reporting trends that occur with the implementation of the new definition. I have confidence that the data collected in this way will show just how silent this crime has been kept in the past due to the exclusiveness of the old definition.
For more ways to get involved: The Rape is Rape campaign’s second initiative (besides changing the definition of rape) is to decrease the backlog of rape kits. Directions on how to take action on the rape kit backlog are included on the Rape is Rape: No More Excuses web page.  I am currently looking in to whether or not Ann Arbor has a backlog of rape kits.

-Lindsay, NPA Volunteer