The Voice of Survivors – Reflections on the Sandusky Trial

As we follow the prosecution’s case against Jerry Sandusky alleged years of abuse, it would be easy to get wrapped up in the horror of the experiences being shared by victims.  The testimony is gut wrenching and horrifying. The trial has put a voice– unfortunately to many voices – to the reality of childhood sexual abuse.  The testimony captures the shame, isolation, and fear that abusers use to control a victim.  It shows how vulnerable so many kids are and how easily a predator can identify weakness and exploit a child.  It reinforces the reality that abusers are shrewd in how they seek victims.  In this case, young boys without stable adult men in their lives who are in awe of the stature and success of the abuser were sought out under the prominent and respected man pretending to be committed to bettering their lives.

The anger can – and does – become overwhelming.

The testimony and trial holds a different story that cannot be overlooked.  The strength in the voices of these young men is undeniable.  The real story is that of their resiliency and strength.  The boys who were violated are now young men telling their reality – stories that they hid for years.   A reality of being a boy who trusted and even idolized a man who took a special
interest in them and seemingly offered the attention they lacked and craved.  They are refusing to keep Sandusky’s secret any longer and they are collectively telling a story of childhood sexual abuse.

Their testimonies share a common thread of asking – pleading – for the abuse to stop.  They may not have been able to stop the violence when they were 10 or 12 or 15 but they are collectively stopping it now and saving countless other victims in the process.  The strength each has shown is astounding.

Their testimony is a critical step in removing the shame and giving voice to the thousands of victims of childhood sexual abuse.  Their strength and courage is medal worthy.  They have found the strength to step forward in hopes that their actions can ensure that another boy is never subjected to the abuse they lived.  The strength to tell a story they wish was not theirs in an effort to hold an abuser accountable.

We honor these young men and the resolution they have shown.  We thank them for unequivocally saying that what happened to them was wrong and not their fault.  We hold up their stories – their truth – with a commitment to keep fighting with them to keep children safe and our communities healthy.

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Peer Counselor Training – Day One

Our intern Sara is participating in WEAVE’s 70 hour Peer Counselor Training program.  At it’s completion she will have met the requirements established by the state to provide crisis intervention services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.  Sara will be sharing her experiences and reflections throughout the class. 

Tonight I attended the first Peer Counselor Training (PCT ) class at WEAVE, Inc., and as it was the first class I wasn’t really expecting much.  I have heard that the training really affects
people and stirs up many different feelings and emotions, but this was just the first class so I was anticipating an overview and history of WEAVE.  While we certainly got this information
provided to us, we also got a lot of information about the history of Domestic Violence in the world, and more specifically the United States.

The presenter shared a quote from Aristotle with the class, which was made around 1254 BC; “it is the best for all tame animals to be ruled by human beings.  For this is how they are kept
alive.  In the same way, the relationship between the make and the female is by nature such that the male is higher, the female lower, that the male rules and the female is ruled.”  This was very much the thought and the represents the social norms of this time.  It is this mindset that created the belief that women were the property of men, first their fathers and then of their husbands, which allowed men to beat women either to keep them in line or to punish them.

While it is easy to quickly dismiss this as being “so very long ago” this mindset was still very active in the not so far past as well.  Another item that was shared with us was a copy of an article from Housekeeping Monthly that was published on May 12, 1955.  The article was titled, “The good wife’s guide” and was a list of different things a woman should do or remember in order to be a good wife to their husband. The list included rules like “show sincerity in your desire to please him”, “remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours”, and
ends with “A good wife always knows her place”.  This is shocking to me, because this was published around when my own mother was born which really wasn’t that long ago.

This mindset is still very active today though and is represented in the media as the social norm through books and movies like The Twilight Saga.  In this series the female lead has
the choice to be with one man or another, but there is never a choice of being her own independent woman that is expressed. The lead male is very domineering and controlling, though he says he does it for the female leads safety. This series is marketing to pre-teen and teen girls, and this is the message that we are still allowing to be conveyed to our female youth.  As a parent, this is a very scary reality to have.  While I did not allow my own children to read the books or see the movies at first, even I succumbed to peer pressure from my own friends indicating, “It’s not that bad, it’s cute!”  Hooting and hollering at a big screen stalker, no matter how glittery, is not cute in my opinion though.

I went home after the first night, profoundly affected by the information I received and feeling almost overwhelmed with the feelings it left me with.  However, I am there to make a difference and I know that together we are stronger.  There were two quotes from our presenter that I wanted to leave you with:

“To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.”

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble.  The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.” -Hellen Keller

 

 

 

 

 

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Breaking down the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) 2010 Part 1: How we experience abuse.

Our intern Sara is tackling the results of the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (2010) through a series of ongoing posts.   

I last shared a basic overview of my take on and reaction to the Prevent Connect webinar titled: National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010: New Knowledge and Unanswered Questions.  At that point I was still trying to process all of the information that I was given; it was a lot of information in a relatively short period of time, and it really took me a while to be able to process through it all and fully digest it.  Rather than try to tackle the entire webinar at once, I have now decided to break it down and focus on it, piece by piece.   

 First of all, what is NISVIS?  NISVIS is an ongoing survey of adults in the United States, 18 and up that is meant to not only describe the prevalence and characteristics of intimate partner violence, sexual violence and stalking and who is likely to experience these types of violence but also focuses on the impacts and health consequences. 

NISVIS is unique because it looks at abuse from the perspective of health rather than a crime context and because it focuses on capturing data regarding violence consistent with how the victims actually recall their experiences with violence. 

WEAVE identifies five different types of abuse, but these are just basic categories of physical, sexual, emotional, financial, and spiritual abuse.  Abuse can happen in different contexts, which is what NISVIS really looked at; how victims are experiencing abuse. 

As a survivor myself, I know that it can be all too easy to think that we are alone in our abuse, and that no one else is experiencing what we are.  Looking at the many different ways in which others experience abuse, we can see that we are not alone.  NISVIS looked at the basic categories of abuse, however it also showed how the different types of abuse overlap. 

In regards to those who participated in the 2010 NISVIS 57% of female participants experienced only physical violence, 3% experienced stalking, and 4% experienced rape.  Then when looking at different combinations of abuse, 9% of female victims experienced rape and physical violence, 1% experiences rape and stalking, 14% experienced physical violence and stalking and 12% experienced all three types of violence. 

Male victims experienced violence much differently than women, while male victims also predominantly experience only physical violence; it was at an astounding rate of 92%.  6% of male participants reported experiencing stalking and physical violence and then 2% of participants responded with “other combinations of abuse”. 

The impact of violence and abuse on a victim varies, and results of the abuse can range in how long they impact the victim.  Beyond physical harm that results in needing immediate medical care, victims often become fearful, suffer from PTSD symptoms, difficulty sleeping, frequent headaches, concern for their safety, need advocacy or legal assistance, need housing assistance and often miss work or school as a result of the abuse. 

Long term effects can look much different.  NISVIS noted that among female victims there is a higher prevalence of asthma, diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome and both male and female victims note a higher prevalence of chronic pain, activity limitations, and poor physical and mental health.  I had no idea that the results of intimate partner violence could be so far reaching.  This only goes to further support that more needs to be done to support victims and survivors and to prevent intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking. 

Remember, the full webinar recording can be found here:  http://preventconnect.org/2012/05/national-intimate-partner-and-sexual-violence-survey-2010-new-knowledge-and-unanswered-question/.

 

 

 

 

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Student Intern Completes Project by Educating Others

We previously shared the experiences and observations of high school student and WEAVE Intern Emily .  Today we share the conclusion and outcome of her project.

On May 9th I completed the second part to my project. I put together a PowerPoint on human trafficking to educate the students in my Advisory at my high school.

 

The students were very respectful while I presented and I got many questions. It was very different from any other presentation I have done at my high school. I could feel the students were intrigued and it was fun for me to be able to talk about what I was learning at WEAVE.

 

When I had finished presenting I had many students come up to me and say that they liked what I was doing and had interests in getting an Internship like mine at WEAVE. One student asked me to send her my PowerPoint and even got emotional and talked about how the information I was giving them could relate to her life.

 

I honestly believe that students like myself getting involved and educating other students makes a huge difference. I am definitely going to keep sharing what I know with people in my life.

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Professionals React to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey

Sara, a WEAVE intern throughout the Summer, recently participated in a national webinar coverin ghte results of recently released groundbreaking research.  Her thoughts are shared below.

I had the opportunity to sit in on a webinar hosted by Prevent Connect this week.  The webinar provided an opportunity to explore the results of the National Intimate Partner and Sexual
Violence Survey (NISVS) which was completed in 2010 and released in late 2011.  It is the first national survey with truly comprehensive data.

 

The participants represented the nation with broad professional backgrounds- 17% of participants were researchers, but 4% were attorneys, 45% were advocates, 3% were in the Criminal Justice System and 3% were Batterer Intervention Programs.  The specialties that were represented were 41% Domestic Violence, 21% Sexual Assault, 1% Stalking, 1% Teen Dating Violence, 5% Public Health and 13% were in other specialties.  The reach that this webinar had was simply extraordinary!

 

While many of us know, in the back of our minds, how prevalent intimate partner abuse and sexual violence is, it is just that, in the back of our minds.  Many people also believe that the
problem is getting better; after all we have preventative programs and we as a society have raised awareness.  However, when you really stop to take a moment and look at the recent data, the fact is that intimate partner abuse and sexual violence is still occurring at astonishing rates.  For example, in the 12 months prior to the survey being conducted 1.3 million women were raped.  That translates to over 100,000 US women being raped each month in the year prior to the survey.  Each minute there are approximately 24 people nationwide who are being victimized through either rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner.  These rates are totally astonishing, in my opinion.

 

When looking at the data in this report, one would think that there is an obvious need for a bigger effort.  However, one truly shocking thing is the reaction to this report by the media.  One of the key speakers, Michelle Lynberg Black, MPH, PHD, noted that the reaction to this data by media is very much one that we have seen in the past.  Media is seeing the data and claiming that women are over reporting or misreporting abuse and that it is not as prominent a problem as the survey is making it out to be.  How is it that 24 people per minute are being abuse, but it is not a prominent problem?  If not now, at what point does it become a problem then?

 

Media outlets may think that women are over reporting or misreporting abuse, but this just is not the case; abuse is abuse and it is not okay in any form.  Another interesting point that  Black made was that there is a significant discrepancy between how people view abuse when being asked from a Criminal Justice perspective versus a Health perspective.  When a person is asked if they are being abused from a Criminal Justice perspective, the abuse gets significantly under reported.  It is believed that this is because people have a hard time classifying their
intimate partner as a criminal.  This is an idea that is not foreign to me, and I was glad to see this documented.

 

Over all, my head is still trying to wrap itself around all of the data and ideas that were presented yesterday.  I urge everyone to look at the data and reports themselves, and even
listen to the webinar once the recording is posted.

http://preventconnect.org/2012/05/national-intimate-partner-and-sexual-violence-survey-2010-new-knowledge-and-unanswered-question/.

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As the gate closed

WEAVE shares information about its programs and services with a variety of groups and audiences – civic clubs, churches, schools, etc. are all common gathering places where many have learned of WEAVE.  Our supporters may not realize, we also provide presentations for inmates.  Following is the experience of one of our employees who recently started presenting to the men incarcerated at the Rio Cosumnes Correction Center.

As the gate closed and locked behind me, I looked around the grounds of the prison now that I was standing inside its formidable boundaries. Just moments ago I was outside enjoying the morning sun.  Now inside the gates for the first time, I was wondering what the experience to follow would be like for me. Luckily I knew I would only be there for the next two hours, not for years as some of the men that I would be talking to would be.

I had been invited to talk to a group of men incarcerated at Rio Cosumnes Correction Center about the work WEAVE does to promote healthy relationships and to explain the many services we provide to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. As the gym filled with over 45 men to hear my presentation, I could not help but notice that the audience was very reflective of Sacramento County’s demographic representing the various ethnic backgrounds and ages ranging from the early 20s to late 60s by my estimation.

As I started to show my PowerPoint presentation and explain WEAVE’s history, our philosophy, and myths that our community still harbors about sexual assault and domestic violence, a hand was raised to ask me the first question of my presentation. A soft-spoken man in the second row questioned my comment that only women could be survivors of domestic violence. I was quick to point out that was a common myth that the PowerPoint slide was referring to, that only women can be survivors, but that WEAVE knows that both men and women can be survivors of both domestic violence and sexual assault. I also informed him that WEAVE provides services to both men and women and that our survivors are available to everyone.

As the presentation continued over the next two hours, the audience was very respectful.  Several members asked pointed clarification questions about our philosophy. I enjoyed the discussions as several men expressed their experiences growing up in abusive homes or being in abusive relationships. The questions they asked showed me that they were not only listening to the information I was providing, but they were relating to and trying to integrate the components of healthy relationships in their own lives. The mutual respect shown from the men and the honest conversation that occurred eased any concerns that I had about speaking to this group. By the end of my presentation several men asked how they could be volunteers or help fund our programs that we offer survivors in Sacramento County.

As the gate closed behind me for the second time, I found myself outside in the parking lot. I was happy that I had the freedom to go about my daily routine working at WEAVE and not be behind bars as the men I had just talked with were still experiencing. It had been a very pleasant and memorable two hours that had just passed and I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I was actually looking forward to going back every-other month so that I am able to speak to a new group of men.

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Words of Encouragement

The following poem was shared with WEAVE by a long time supporter of domestic violence survivors.  With her permission, we are sharing the words with our online community.

I Want To Live!

There lives in me the power to rid

My mind of all this fear

Escape from all the savageness

Burning in my ears

He’s taken from me restful sleep

To fill my dreamy nights

Smothered it within the cloak

Of bitter tears of fright

Traveling down the devil’s road

With me beneath his feet

He’ll find his soul in dark abyss

Throughout eternity

I know inside I’m all I was

The day that I was born

And soon I’ll find the key that fits

These shackles I adorn

My heart still longs to hear the voice

Of unencumbered love

The song that echoes with the peace

Of God’s most blessed dove

And now I feel a hand on mine

Its message very clear

It’s come to offer me a place

To hide from all the fear

Dear God, please tell my newest friends

The comfort they provide

Instills in me the strength I need

To defend my right to life

Written by Patty St. Pierre, dba Lilyworks, March 1996

(May 25, 2012, released for publication with permission of Patty St. Pierre)

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Teen Voices – One Young Person

WEAVE offers internships to high school students willing to commit to an ongoing project.  Here is the story of one student’s experience at WEAVE.

I am a student as The Met High School in Sacramento. This year, I am interning at WEAVE. As a part of my internship, our school requires that we to do a project that will benefit the site we intern at. I decided to have two parts to my project, a fundraiser and an awareness event.

The fundraiser was to raise money for backpacks for The Anti-Trafficking Program at WEAVE. The backpacks are given to survivors of commercial sexual exploitation who are in need of  basic belongings such as clothes, hand towels and washrags, hygiene and personal care items, bus passes, gift cards in small amounts to grocery stores, Target or Wal-Mart.  I have  completed the fundraiser and had a successful fun bake sale to raise the money for the backpacks.

The bake sale came together with the help of a group of students in my advisory who volunteered to bake and help prep for the bake sale. It was a blast to bake with them and they were all happy to contribute to a good cause.

We set up a table in the cafeteria at lunch and set out the cupcakes, cookies and lemon bread. The students began to notice the table as they gathered for lunch in the cafeteria and in a short time the table was over whelming with kids, all wanting something much tastier to eat then the lunch that day at the school.

 All together I raised $202 dollars through purchases and donations! It was a great experience for me and it made me realize that even a teenager like myself, can really make a difference and help.

The second part of my project is to give a presentation to my advisory at my high school to educate them on Human Trafficking. I am doing the presentation this month. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Thanks for reading!

Emily

 

A Message from Emily’s WEAVE Mentor:

Emily is a great example of how one person can change many lives. Many survivors of human trafficking lose all of their belongings when they escape. They face the terrible choice of returning to their trafficker or going without. The care packages Emily puts together will meet the basic needs of young sex trafficking survivors here in Sacramento. This provides an  invaluable sense of security that empowers youth to move into the healing process.

If you would like to bring together your community, school, church, or work place to assemble care packages for young people, WEAVE would like to support you in making a difference.  Just let us know how we can help! Ideally, each care package would include all of the items listed below:

  • Sweats/lounge-wear (small sizes)
  • Underclothing (socks, bra’s, underwear)
  • Backpacks
  • Journals/pens
  • Stationary and stamps
  • Hand towels and washrags
  • Hygiene and personal care items (tampons, deodorant, hair brushes, etc)
  • Bus passes
  • Gift cards in small denominations (Grocery stores, Target, WalMart)

 

Items can be dropped off at our counseling center at 1900 K Street, Attention Mandy Taylor.  If you have any questions about WEAVE’s Anti-Trafficking Program or how you can make a difference in the loves of survivors, please contact me.

Thank you,

Mandy Taylor, MSW

(916) 319-4910

mandyt@weaveinc.org

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Teen Voices

WEAVE’s Teen Education & Prevention program works directly with  you at Hiram Johnson High School.  Here, our Teen Educator Renae, works with the students of Club STRONG and mentors students to help create a safer environment and healthier campus.  Renae’s work with students at Hiram Johnson High School allows her to form much deeper relationships and to empower the youth to be change agents themselves.  The program is clearly working:

Hey Renae,

I want to tell you thank you so much for taking your time to be my mentor this year. I don’t think I have told you this enough but I appreciated it so much. I enjoyed working for you and WEAVE. You guys have a great organization and I hope I can be apart of events again. You are a great person and your going to go far in your career. Thank you for being so understanding. You understood my schedule but still made sure I had my hours. Thank you for checking up on me when we see eachother and ask how I was doing. Thank you for letting me talk to you about my guy problems haha. Thank you for pressuring me into going to prom cause I enjoyed myself. I learned a lot during this project with domestic violence and I thank you for my knowledge I have now. I’m glad I had such an awesome mentor that was chill and hip :) haha I know I was late to meetings and couldnt show up for some events but hey you never gave up on me and I appreciate that as well. Just remember for your next mentees they wont be as cool as us :) Well Renae, once again thank you and I appreciate it so much.

 

 

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Proof that big help does come in small packages

WEAVE’s programs and services are made possible through the help of more than 200 volunteers each year.   These volunteers include college students who complete internships for a variety of programs including Marriage and Family Therapy, Social Work, Human Services, Human Development, Communications and more.  The following reflections were shared from a current intern during her first week interning at WEAVE.

I am always amazed at the generosity of children.  Too often when we speak of children it is of their personal needs and sometimes even of how selfish they can seem; “Mommy, I want that brand new toy on television!”

On Wednesday, I was given a glimpse at the selflessness side of children.  Four young girls, all in fourth grade at Helen Carr Castillo Elementary School in Elk Grove, came to WEAVE to  drop off a donation.  This was only my second day as an intern at WEAVE, so I was still very much getting my feet wet when I was asked to tag along at this donation drop off.  What I saw was truly heartwarming.

These four girls held a garage sale and raised over six hundred dollars to benefit WEAVE.  However, rather than just making a cash donation they took a large portion of the money and  purchased fleece material, ribbon and teddy bears.  With the materials they made packages of brand new no-sew blankets and teddy bears gingerly tied together with ribbon that will be placed on the WEAVE Safe House  beds.  Children that come into the Safe House are there to get away from a violent home environment and are often  feeling lost or confused.  Many will  now have a brand new blanket and teddy bear that is all theirs sitting on their bed waiting for them.  This will be such a huge help to these children, aiding in their adjustment to an  otherwise scary  time!

Children are compassionate and giving; often times they just need to be listened to and given the help and encouragement needed in seeing their ideas come to fruition!  These four little girls have made a huge impact on the lives of children they will never meet; you can’t get more  selfless than that.

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