Social Media & Teen Dating Abuse

A recent study from the Urban Institute has found 26 percent of youth in romantic relationships state that their partner had “digitally abused” them over the last year through
texts, email or social media.

The study reports that the most prevalent form of digital abuse is tampering with a partner’s social media account. More than 1 out of 12 youth reported that their partner used their social media account without their permission.

Members of the MyStrength Club, a young men’s club facilitated by WEAVE staff at a local high school, related tampering with partner’s social media to that of reading others’ texts, emails and looking at the phone log, which they often see among their peers.  A controlling partner may secretly look at their partner’s phone to check photos, texts, and recent phone calls to ensure they do not have any private interactions without their knowledge. The digital realm has created new ways for abusers to isolate their partner from friends and family by instilling a fear that they could get “caught” with texts or photos that their partner doesn’t approve of.

Digital harassment is a red flag for other abuse.

This finding in the report shows most of those digitally abused have also experienced emotional or psychological abuse (84%). In addition, more than half (52%) report also being physically abused and 33% report sexual abuse.  Digital abuse is rarely an isolated occurrence, and is an early warning that more levels of abuse may be on its way.

Digital abuse is just one of the many ways an abusive partner can use their power to control their partner’s behavior and restrict their independence. To find out the rest of the findings of this report, click here: http://www.urban.org/publications/901557.html

For more information on teen dating violence, or to schedule a workshop for youth or adults on youth relationship abuse, contact Michael Minnick, Youth Violence Prevention Coordinator at mminnick@weaveinc.org or 916.319.4992.

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Learn More About Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a very real problem.  An estimated 27 million people are living in slavery worldwide.  80% of the victims are women and girls and a staggering half of the victims are children.

The facts about human trafficking are staggering, but the numbers alone cannot fully convey the heartbreaking experiences of victims who are exploited and mistreated every day in the
greater Sacramento region.  The reality is that the intersection of major highways and interstates makes our region a hub for trafficking.

With increased awareness, we can all play an increasingly prominent role in identifying, responding to, and supporting victims of trafficking.  WEAVE is part of a community-wide
collaborative working responding to human trafficking through the Rescue & Restore Coalition.

WEAVE and our community partners need help to combat human trafficking.  WEAVE offers an one-hour presentation that provides participants with helpful information, practical
tools, and useful printed materials which enable them to effective respond if they encounter a victim of trafficking.  The training is available at no cost.  At the conclusion of the presentation, each participant will understand the issues of human trafficking, know how to identify victims of human trafficking, and understand the many resources available to trafficking
survivors.

If anyone in the Sacramento region would like to have a presentation about human trafficking, please contact Rodger Freeman, Prevention and Education Supervisor at 916.319.4927, or rcfreeman@weaveinc.org.

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Young Men Take the Lead in Prevention Efforts at West Campus

In October 2012, WEAVE’s Prevention and Education department began facilitating the MyStrength Young Men’s Club at West Campus High School in Sacramento. The club is an opportunity for young men to discuss topics that they may not feel comfortable talking about in the presence of young women. The group discusses the messages men receive from our society about how to act, look, and treat other people. Specifically, the group will address men’s relationships with women, and how they can take a stand to prevent violence against women.

The group of 14 was an instant success, and more and more young men asked to join. In January 2013, WEAVE started a second club at West Campus to create opportunities for more young men to participate. With two MyStrength clubs meeting weekly, WEAVE is helping to support young male leaders as they begin addressing the issues of relationship violence and sexual
assault.  For more information about WEAVE’s MyStrength program, contact Michael Minnick, Youth Violence Prevention Coordinator at mminnick@weaveinc.org.

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Believe Them

As a survivor I am always troubled when I see another survivor suffer.  I view this as both my burden and my gift.  I will always feel deeply for the suffering of others but I will also always work as hard as I can to end that suffering.

As an advocate I have always had my moments, usually alone in the car, when I silently cry for those I have served.  For the lives I have touched.  Part of me hopes to one day live in a world
where I never have to cry, but the other part is grateful I was able to be there for that survivor.

I watched a YouTube video today that was posted by the late Amanda Todd.  Amanda was 15 years old when she committed suicide.  Amanda was in the 7th grade when a man on the  Internet preyed on her and convinced her to flash the webcam her breasts.  The same man later threatened to expose the pictures to her family and friends if she didn’t show him more.  He followed through with that threat, and sent Amanda on a downward spiral that eventually led to her death.  She was depressed, her friends abandoned her and she felt completely alone.

A child can never consent to any sexual act, including flashing a camera.  A child is vulnerable and in need of guidance and support.  Amanda was looking for someone who believed in her the day she found a man on the Internet who told her she was beautiful.

Predators prey on those with low self esteem.  Those who can be easily built up just before they are broken down.  Predators exist because we as a society fail to protect the vulnerable.  We fail to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

No child should ever feel so alone that they would turn to the attention of a stranger.  No child should, but a shocking number of them do every day.  Parents, teachers, relatives, friends all
have the ability to change and potentially save a life.  We all have the ability to notice when another human being is suffering.  The response can be as simple as asking a person how they are doing.  Telling someone that you pass on the street that you like their outfit.  Letting another human being know that they are not alone.

Amanda felt alone, like many victims do.  She also felt as though she was to blame for what happened.  No victim should ever feel alone and every victim should know that it was not their fault.

I came to work for WEAVE because I knew it was an opportunity to be a supportive voice for victims who may not have another.  What I didn’t expect, but am humbled by daily, is the impact on my life this work has had.  Every victim I help also helps me.  They help me to realize that this community, this world, can be changed by one single act of kindness.  Everything around us can be impacted by just one person standing up for what is right.

I support and stand by WEAVE, and will forever, because I know what it is to be a victim without a voice.  Today I am lucky because I have learned what it is to give a victim a voice too.

Amanda Todd could have been a bright light in this world, but she was lost.  If you know a victim of violence, in any form, please be an advocate for them.  Give them the most powerful gift anyone can give.  Believe them.

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Rape Has No Political Affiliation

Rape is not Republican. Rape is not Democrat. Rape is an act of power, control, and violation that crosses all political boundaries.

Our country is in the midst of a rape dialogue that is being driven by the statements of political candidates. The conversation has shifted to semantics, definitions and perpetuation of myths and mistruths. The fact is that one in four women in this country are victims of sexual assault and their political affiliation and that of their rapist have no bearing on this heinous crime.

In the past year, 206 women in our community reported sexual assaults to law enforcement and underwent an evidentiary exam at a local hospital. 800 victims called our 24 hour Support & Information Line to seek help. Another 264 received 1,504 hours of sexual assault counseling at WEAVE. Given that fewer than one out of ten victims reports the crime to law enforcement and less than half (46%) of sexual assault victims seek any help after the assault, we know an even greater number endured the assault alone and have not benefited from therapeutic counseling.

For some victims, their attacker was an acquaintance or friend. For others, the assailant was a complete stranger they had never met. In some cases, the rapist was a spouse or partner.

The common thread amongst each of their stories of survival is the fear that consumed their lives not only during the assault but in the hours after when they reported to police or sat alone filled with terror, dread and for too many, shame and self-doubt. This fear continued in the days and weeks that followed when they were awakened by nightmares, haunted by flashbacks and questioned about their actions and inactions.

The fear is legitimate. The pain is real. The affect is life changing.

WEAVE believes every victim of sexual assault deserves unconditional support in the hours, days, weeks, and years following the attack. This support is critical if victims are to become survivors. Since 1988, WEAVE has been the sole rape crisis center in Sacramento County. We are tasked with ensuring every victim of sexual assault has equal access to appropriate medical care, mental health support, and advocacy during the criminal justice process.

Our community has stood with victims 24 hours a day for 24 years. The need for this support has never been greater than right now.

To learn more and to support WEAVE, Inc. go to www.weaveinc.org.

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Staff Voices – Burden Bearers

After reading Jaycee Dugard’s A Stolen Life, I found myself distraught and weighed down by guilt for not somehow being there to protect her from the monsters who kidnapped and sexually and mentally tortured her for eighteen years. Many people in my life have dubbed me a “burden bearer” because I become deeply connected to situations I seemingly have no power to  change. In my mental struggle as a burden bearer, I often find myself asking the question, “How do you fight something you cannot see?”

Rainn.org (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) reports that 54% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police and 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. Approximately 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim and 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance. DomesticViolenceStatistics.org reveals that “around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family.”

We, unfortunately, are not fighting something we cannot see—we are fighting something we refuse to see. The topics of sexual assault and domestic violence make us so uncomfortable that we pretend the issues do not exist. How can we not see evidence of something that is all around us? We cannot deny that this is happening in our society when it is so obviously prevalent in our communities.

How can we expect anything to change if we are shaming victims rather than enrobing them with support? Ignorance is no more a remedy to injustice as makeup is to a black eye. We have to bury our denial and equip ourselves with knowledge so that we recognize red flags in place of camouflage.

Jaycee’s story was one of complete heartbreak but also of unrelenting hope. I certainly was not her captor, but I owe it to her and to other victims like her to take off my blinders. In her book, Jaycee states, “We live in a world where we rarely speak out and when someone does, often nobody is there to listen.” Not only are we fighting something we can see, we are fighting something that can cease to exist in our lifetime.

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Filed under Community Voices, Domestic Violence, Human Trafficking, Sexual Assault, Staff Voices, Stalking

Peer Counselor Training – Perspectives and Reactions to Rape Culture

Sara, our summer intern, continues to share her experiences from the Peer Counseling Training.

I have to admit that prior to this week, I had never heard the term “Rape Culture” however I realized that I have known what it is and have been living amongst it obliviously for some time now.  I fancy myself a person who is in-tune with society and our culture, but I must say this week was a wakeup call, especially as the parent to a female teenager.

Rape culture is a culture in which rape and sexual assault is normalized and females are sexualized and where victim blaming occurs.  My initial reaction to this was that our society is not like this, but then as the training moved on I realized I was quite wrong.  Think about images from pop culture, movies, music videos and even print ads in high end fashion magazines; girls as young as 4 and 5 prancing around on stages dolled up to look like little women; a woman in scantily clad bikinis with only their body showing with the words “wash me” written on her stomach in order to promote a body wash; a tie ad featuring a woman appearing to be strangled by a man and his tie; lyrics singing of shooting women or “smacking hoes” that are then repeated by our female and male youth…  The list can go on and on.  This is rape culture.

Rape culture can be organized into a pyramid, of how it starts and the most common type of actions on up to the worst possible actions.  It starts with gender stereotyping, objectification, languages and even jokes around these topics then moves to verbal abuse and victimization leading to murder and sexual violence at the top of the pyramid.  Normalizing objectification and stereotypes about gender likely leads us to language and jokes about gender stereotypes and objectification.  This then leads us to the verbal abuse and victimization of people around the same gender stereotypes and objectification that has already been normalized.  We are raising children in a society where this is happening, which affects not only female children but males as well. 

Boys are raised to be dominant; even in the movies several sensual love scenes show female leads not accepting of a males sexual advances and as the man becomes more pushy and more physical with the female she turns and these actions appear to have turned her on to where she becomes a willing participant.  These are then the images that we allow our youth to watch which helps to then shape their own views and stereotypes around sex and gender roles.  Over time, and in many cases this culture can then lead to the more severe parts of a rape culture of sexual violence and even murder.  Again I say it, this is rape culture; we are living in and contributing to a rape culture. 

Change can start with one person and in one home; then if many people start to make these changes, this is how we change society and our culture.  No one wants to contribute to a society that normalizes rape and sexual assault, but by condoning these images or lyrics we are allowing ourselves and our youth to be impacted by them.  The change can start with each of us, and spread; and WEAVE‘s mission is to bring an end not only to domestic violence, but also to sexual assault in partnership with their community.  Together we can be the change I realize.

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Filed under Community Voices, Domestic Violence, Human Trafficking, Sexual Assault, Stalking, Teen Dating Violence

Peer Counselor Training – Stalking

Our intern Sara continues to reflect on what she is learning through the 70 hour Peer Counselor Training program she is participating in as part of her intership and future volunteering commitment.

In today’s social media climate, stalking has become something that many of us adults joke about, as well as the younger population.  With a “Who Is Stalking You?” Facebook app that has ten thousand monthly users, it may not seem like that big of a deal, like it really is just a joke.  However there are also three separate stalking interest pages on Facebook that can be found really easily; Stalking Interest, with almost forty thousand likes, Facebook stalking… admit it, you do it a community page with almost fifty thousand likes and a Facebook Stalking interest page with almost two million likes.  Now does it seem like just a big joke?  Facebook and other social media sites make stalking in the digital age that much easier.  No longer does an ex-significant other need to follow you around town in order to keep an eye on you, but they can just ‘stalk your Facebook page’ to see what you are up to, who you are hanging out with, where you are going, and just your general thoughts on life.

 

Media portrays stalking as something cool; it’s just what you do when you love someone and they say they don’t reciprocate the feelings.  If you stalk someone long enough it proves your love and eventually they will fall in love with you too, after all this is what happens in movies and even cartoons dating back to my early childhood.  It may seem silly, but think about Pepe LaPue chasing that poor cat around trying to make it love him back; it seems funny, but these are the messages that we are engraining into our children’s heads.  Even popular music depicts the loving side of stalking; everyone loves The Police, or maybe I am dating myself here.  Every Breath You Take was at one point the most popular song used at weddings for the first dance, but just take a moment to look at the lyrics.  “Every breath… move… bond… step… you take… make… break… I’ll be watching you…  Since you’ve gone I been lost without a trace, I dream at night I can only see your face, I look around but it’s you I can’t replace, I feel so cold and I long for your embrace, I keep crying baby, baby, please…”  This song is about a person who is no longer with the person they are singing about, this song is a catchy melody for sure, but it is about stalking not love, and certainly not the type of love that you want a healthy marriage to be based around.

 

Victims of stalking are not wooed by their stalker; they are terrified of their stalker.  Stalking is an obsessive and harassing behavior that creates an intense feeling of fear and can have victims of stalking looking over their shoulder for years after the incident ends.  1 out of every 6 women and 1 out of every 19 men have been stalked at some point in their lifetime, which means that it has likely happened to people you know.  So, who are the stalkers?  If it were that easy to pinpoint and identify them, I don’t think it would be such a prevalent problem, because most of us would just steer clear from them.  There is no true prevention when it comes to stalking, we just have to be careful what we share with people we don’t really know, but this also means we need to
take time to really get to know people.
When it comes to social media, keep your page as private as possible and
even then, be cautious what you post.

 

If you are being stalked, or think you are being stalked, there are
things you can do.  First and for most
also think about your safety first; be aware of your surroundings, keep your
doors locked on your home and vehicle, and let your neighbors and your employer
know of your concerns.  Documentation is
so important; keep a log of stalking incidents and even keep a telephone
log.  This will help show a pattern of
behavior and really help to show what it is you are experiencing.  You can also contact WEAVE’s 24 hour Support
Line for further assistance about stalking.

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Filed under Community Voices, Domestic Violence, Staff Voices, Stalking, Volunteer Voices

Peer Counselor Training – Week 3 – Mandated Reporting & Domestic Violence Services

Our intern Sara continues to blog about her experiences and responses while going through WEAVE’s 70 hour Peer Counselor Training program.

 

The topics that we are discussing are getting heavier at this point; week 2 ended with us learning about Mandated Reporting and what it means to be a mandated reporter.  I have previously
worked in a setting where I was a mandated reporter and the extent of the training that I received was a single sheet of paper indicating that I was aware that I was a mandated reporter and that I must report any suspected abuse of a child.  I was never instructed on how to report or what suspected child abuse could look like.  WEAVE offers extensive training on what it means to be a mandated reporter, and I actually feel more confident now that if I were to run across a situation where I suspect child abuse in any future position, I now know what my  responsibilities are.

 

Week 3 we learned about all the different Domestic Violence services that WEAVE offers to survivors.  WEAVE offers not only the 24 hour Support & Information Line, but also a three times a week walk in triage where survivors can undergo a safety assessment and then get referrals to other WEAVE services as well as other services within the community that may be beneficial.  Beginning this week as well, there is now a weekly walk-in Legal Triage where survivors can gain access to legal assistance with items such as divorce, restraining orders and child custody.  What a great asset to survivors in these situations.  More often than not when we are faced with these scary life events we feel frozen in fear, but not only in fear of our abuser but also in fear of uncertainty.  To have the ability to get assistance in assessing our legal concerns is such a great tool to help remove some of the fear around uncertainty and get help in how to proceed.

 

Fear can be an issue surrounding many aspects as a survivor.  Another item that can create fear is Law Enforcement, how they will respond and how they will treat you in what could be
your greatest moment of need.  I know for many people, we are afraid that we will not be believed or even blamed for what happened, and worrying about whose side the law will be on can create enough doubt that we might not reach out to law enforcement when we really need to.  I met two officers from Sacramento City Police this week that truly gave me hope for the future in regards to law enforcement and how they view domestic violence, though.  These two officers were passionate about putting an end to domestic violence, were aware of many of the fears survivors face when they reach out for help and were truly dedicated to putting an end to domestic violence in Sacramento.  These two gentleman were such a breath of fresh air, and it gives me such hope that these men are in positions to influence greater change within the police force as a whole; I truly think that in the future we can get closer to bringing an  end to domestic violence.

 

Another very important piece that we learned about this week was the different populations that WEAVE serves.  When we think domestic violence, it is easy to become pigeonholed and think that survivors are all female.  This is just not the case; men can just as easily be victims of domestic violence.  After learning more about male victims, I actually think that in general men have greater obstacles to overcome as far as being accepted as victims.  Not only do men have the stigma of being the stronger gender to overcome, but if a woman hits or abuses a man in other ways and he were to call the police, if there is no overwhelming physical evidence I can see police officers just not believing what the man is saying happened as the truth.  This can make it that much harder for a male victim to access services, because if the police don’t believe them they would doubt that others would believe him as well.  This would be a sad and scary realization for a survivor to have.  It should not be that size or gender comes in to play when needing help escaping a violent environment, but in many cases it is.

 

We also heard from a panel of domestic violence survivors this week, which I was really afraid would be hard for me to do.  However, I felt very strong while listening to their stories and even managed to ask a couple of questions once they were done telling their stories.  However, when another classmate that I have been getting to know over these past three weeks decided to share her personal experience with domestic violence, it reduced me to tears.  Her story impacted me so heavily that I had to sit in my car for about ten minutes and compose myself prior to driving home.  It was a tough way to end a Saturday, but it gave me peace to know that each of us are in better places now, and are moving on from the pain that was once such a big part of our lives.  We just have to remember to stay positive and focused on moving forward.

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Peer Counselor Training – The Learning Continues

We are sharing our next update from our intern Sara who is going through WEAVE’s Peer Counselor Training Program.  Sara is also tweeting during appropriate parts of the training. If you are on Twitter don’t forget to follow @WEAVEInc.

Even though this entry is about day 3, I didn’t want to just ignore day 2; day two was not as hard as I thought it would be.  We learned about self-defense and gender socialization, which proved to be more informative and empowering than anything else.  It left me inspired that there is more that I can do for myself even, to improve my personal growth, which is a great feeling to have.  Now, on to day 3.

 

Day 3 was really an interesting class.  One of the biggest things that I took away from the evening was in regards to vicarious trauma.  Vicarious trauma is the impact of a culmination of the stories we hear from other people.  Even though I knew that if you hear horrible stories often enough, it would have the potential to impact you, I wasn’t aware that there was a name for it or a way to really help mitigate the damages it can have.  Often times the signs of vicarious trauma look very much like signs of actual trauma, so if you are aware of those signs in others it should be easy to realize them in yourself.  However, this is not always the case, and it requires that you have a regular check in with yourself and it becomes very important that we take care of ourselves as we work to serve others who are experiencing traumatic events.

 

We learned about how to address vicarious trauma with an ABC approach:

Awareness

Balance

Connection

 

What this means is that as we serve clients we need to be sure that we first are Aware and understand our own pasts and vulnerabilities, be sure to nurture ourselves and also to remember that we are not here to fix anything.  Next we have to Balance our lives by paying attention to ourselves and how we are feeling and then finding an outlet for those feelings regularly.  Last we must have a Connection, especially on rough days it is important to feel a connection to other people and spend time with those who care about us and who we care about.

 

I remember the first time I experienced vicarious trauma, and I didn’t know what it was.  Not long after my own personal experience with domestic violence I received a call from a close friend who was being transported to the hospital after being beaten up by a significant other.  I remember the drive to the hospital; at first I was angry, then I was crying; I felt as though my car could not go fast enough and the more fixated on that the more my heart began to pound.  Suddenly, I felt a rush of fear sweep over my body and could not place the reason for the fear.  Once at the hospital I realized that I could not face her trauma, it was too soon and too raw for me.  This realization made me feel helpless and as though I was a burden at the hospital rather than a help.  Luckily my friend’s children were brought to the hospital with her so I was able to be given the task of caring for the children in the lobby rather than having to go to her room and see her and her injuries.  I was lucky and relieved to have an immediate purpose.  In the days beyond this incident I slept a lot and was not able to focus on work or household duties.

 

It is comforting to now be able to put a name to what I was feeling then and to know that it is not only okay to have this response but that it is also quite normal.  I feel empowered to know that I can impact this and that there are now ways I can recognize and take care of myself to minimize this effect going forward.  We can self-regulate our moods by finding outlets that work for us, and using them regularly to keep this disruption to a minimum.  What works for one person may not work for another mind you, but what I have found that works well for me is spending time outdoors, preferably with my children.  I also recognize that it is important to take a break during the work day, because far too often I feel the need to work through breaks or lunches so that I can accomplish everything I feel is important, but this is not helping me out in the long run, rather it just causes more anxiety.

 

So, going forward I am committed to taking those much needed breaks to get outside and just take a walk.  It is important to just find what works well for you and to be sure to do it, that is the important part – do it!

 

 

 

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Filed under Community Voices, Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Staff Voices, Volunteer Voices