Will You Accept This Rant? January 20

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Welcome back to Will You Accept This Rant? for week 3 of this journey to find love (and a culture of healthy relationships in media!)

If you haven’t been following along yet, we’re working to examine and call out our culture of relationships that we see under a microscope in the petri dish that is Bachelor Nation.  Check out our weekly Facebook Live video (clink this link!) to hear all our thoughts and let us know what you’re thinking about this week! Don’t forget, you can always follow along with us on Twitter too! (@Safe_PassageDV)

What happened this week?

  • ChampagneGate resolves: Kelsey doesn’t even like champagne. So glad we spent two episodes on this.


(Couldn’t resist, sorry.)

  • Peter’s one-on-one date with Victoria P: line-dancing and vulnerable conversations.
  • Demi-Date: group date, pillow-fighting in lingerie. Ugh.
  • Group-date continued: Sydney v. Alayah
  • Pool party: not much pool, even less party.  Just the Alayah drama continues
  • Rose ceremony: Alexa, Sarah C, Jasmine, and Alayah go home. Maybe other people too, but honestly we can’t keep track yet.
  • Tune in next week:  Peter seems unsure about sending Alayah home. Maybe she’s back?!

There is a lot to unpack in this episode, but the biggest takeaways we had this week were:

  • Verbal abuse and bullying is serious.
  • Boys should be allowed to show their emotions.
  • Bi-women are unfairly sexualized in our society and it is harmful.
  • Girls need to stick together and fight the things that are really hurting us (the patriarchy) and not each other.

Kelsey started off this episode (yes, Champagne Gate gets one more mention) saying that unkind words aren’t bullying and we’re going to pull a lesson from Middle School Social Emotional Learning to say…sort of. You can be rude, you can be mean, and you can be a bully. Bully requires a use of unequal power over a period of time. That absolutely COULD BE what is going on.  More likely, Kelsey was really just being pretty mean. But just because it was only words does not mean that it isn’t bullying.  Too often verbal abuse is written off as “not that serious” because no one was physically injured but it is the verbal and mental abuse that can cause some of the deepest wounds for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. We need to make sure we take words seriously.

We know two things about Peter FOR SURE this early in the season: he is a touchy-feely fellow and he’s in his feelings. And we’re so glad for the chance to see an emotionally in-tune guy on our TV screens every Monday night. People of all genders feel their feelings, but it really seems like women are the only ones given permission to show it. Guys and mascs, you don’t have to be John McClane 24/7.  Peter is demonstrating some deep compassion and empathy and real openness about his own emotions and we are here for it!

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Alright…

We’ve got to start with some statistics: 75% of bi women experience sexual violence in their lifetimes (LINK with stats).  Part of that is due to the way bi women are hypersexualized in our society and treated as existing solely for the viewing pleasure of straight men. The group date with Demi played right into that.  A pillow fight in lingerie sounds like something a freshman fratboy might have dreamed up and ABC execs threw that right to the only Bachelor Nation alum to have had a queer relationship on one of their shows.  Not a great look and plays right into the stereotypes about bi-folx that end up hurting us and excusing the abuse we experience. In a show that has highlighted the experience of SO FEW LGBTQIA+ folks, this was not a great way to show that they understand helpful representation.

And finally, if there was one thing that summed up this episode it was girls taking each other down instead of teaming up to take down the patriarchy.  Whether it was Kelsey v. Hannah Ann or Sydney v. Alayah or Victoria P v. Alayah or Mykenna v. her own anxiety, this was not a good night for girl power.  TPTB have gotten better at showing the supportive sisterhood of the house over the last few seasons.  We’ve seen strong friendships developing and girls supporting each other in this weird, messy journey to find Instagram sponsorships love. We’ve hardly seen that at all so far this season.  I’m sure that isn’t because those friendships aren’t forming, but because the editors don’t think that footage is as valuable as the drama. It is such a disservice to all the young women and girls (and everyone) watching out there to see girls being treated as competition and winners/losers, rather than supporters and lifelong partners. We need each other and we always will.  A romantic relationship isn’t enough to get you through life.  You need your friendships, your family (chosen, bio, or otherwise) and your community. I think the show is really missing out on a part of what was making it better when we miss out on that female empowerment and support.


She’s referring to feminism and equality.

Our dead rose of this week goes to the producers.  Y’all are messy and we wouldn’t have a TV show without you but please…you’re creating a season of drama for all the wrong reasons.

Our real rose (let’s end on a high note) goes to Victoria P for her vulnerability, openness, and strength. As an agency working each and every day with survivors of trauma, you all are some of the strongest, bravest, and most amazing people in this world. You should never have experienced the pain you did, but you are using that pain to build a brighter future and a safer world.  We’re honored to do the work we do alongside you. Victoria P, you are a survivor.

 

Will You Accept This Rant? January 13

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Welcome welcome welcome to week 2 of Will You Accept This Rant!

We started this week in our WYATR studio, so head over to our Facebook (Click This Link!) to check out our live video and share your thoughts!  You can also hit up our Twitter (@Safe_PassageDV) to follow along with our live tweets.

I started to type out a recap of this episode and 12-hours later I realized, you didn’t need to read EVERY DETAIL that happened last night.  Check out our FB video and save your reading time for a good novel or a newspaper article (#SupportLocalNews). Here’s a few highlights that we noticed, loved, or hated:

  • Hannah B and Peter’s conversation: Bless her heart; Hannah is a girl who is embarrassed about all the weirdos she dated for way too long and doesn’t know what she wants anymore. I’ve never felt so seen. Despite all the efforts of the producers to convince us that it was a real possibility, we all had to know there was no way Hannah and Peter were walking away from this as a couple.
  • Sydney and Peter actually have a real conversation about what it is like for her as a biracial woman growing up in the South.  Good try, Mike Fleiss, but I’m not letting you off the hook until you stop casting all these white-bread bachelors.
  • Champagnegate: Kelsey brings a bottle of champagne that she’s been saving for a year and she wants to drink it with Peter. Girl.  I’m from Iowa, just like you. There is no champagne in Iowa that is worth saving. Drink it yourself and MOVE ON. 
  • Champagnegate, Part 2: Hannah Ann comes on strong to prove that gaslighting is not just a move for the fellas! A fake apology (“I acknowledge your feelings.” aka, I’m sorry you feel that way.  I’m sorry if YOU were offended.) is not a real apology. Also, a classic shift of responsibility by making herself the victim! Now, Kelsey was obviously over-the-top. She was WAY too upset with Hannah Ann for something that clearly was not really Hannah Ann’s fault.  However, Hannah Ann using that moment to faux-pologize then cry to Peter that she’d been bullied?  That is a classic tactic for avoiding accountability.  Nothing would have smoothed that situation over quicker than a genuine apology and show of empathy.
  • The Revolve date revolved [badumsshh] around the idea that all girls love fashion and shopping.  We’re ready for this stereotype to die. Peter is doing a great job of showing his emotional journey and I think that is so important for people of all genders to see! Let’s all commit to moving beyond this gender binary stereotype in 2020.
  • Victoria F is either playing a VERY successful game to get ahead in Peter’s heart or is suffering from some SEVERE self-confidence issues. The world (and Bachelor Nation) are built to tear women and femmes down and that environment can be VERY difficult, so you’ve got to have a strong hold on who you are and what you’re about. Invest in yourself, not just in your relationships with others.  It is hard to have a healthy, successful relationship with someone else until you build up your partnership with YOU.
  • Blink and you’ll miss it moment: Peter gave Madi a framed photo of her with his family from their first one-on-one date. These super sweet moments are calculated to make you fall in love. Maybe pretty innocuous in Bachelor Nation but a HUGE SHINY RED FLAG in a real-world relationship. Love-bombing is the first stage in the cycle of violence, getting you hooked before you have a chance to realize what a dangerous relationship this really is.
  • Physical touch: Peter is CLEARLY a physical-touch kind of guy.  If this is your love language, get it! More power to you! Just don’t forget to get consent. Totally okay to kiss, make-out, hook-up on a first date or whatever date you want, as long as you both feel comfortable with that timeline. Peter is kissing A LOT OF LADIES, and that is a-okay but we hope he is getting explicit consent and if he is, we’re wishing that TPTB would value it enough to include that instead of leaving it on the editing room floor.

We could talk for hours about this episode, but we’ll hold back for now. Check in later and we might expand on some of these thoughts in future blogs, don’t forget to check out our Facebook video, and follow us on Twitter! As always, we’ll end with giving out our roses:

  • Tonight’s Rose goes to: Ashley P.  Okay, we just still can’t get over an emotional support cow.  Let Ashley P inspire you to invest in your mental and emotional health today!  Call Safe Passage to connect with a counselor, play with your pet cow, write in your journal, take your medication.  Whatever you do to stay healthy, do it and be proud!
  • Tonight’s Dead Rose goes to: Victoria F.  Girl needs to spend some time watering her own garden, investing in her sense of self-worth, and figuring out who she really is before she can blossom.

 

Will You Accept This Rant?

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Hey y’all! We’ll be livetweeting this season of ABC’s The Bachelor, sharing live-video discussions on Facebook (@safepassagedvsa), and blogging our conversations here. If you’re not familiar with the premise of Bachelor Nation, here’s a quick rundown:

One guy (or woman, if we’re watching The Bachelorette) meets 25-30 single (or allegedly single *coughJedcough*) contestants, dates them in exciting and adventurous locations and eliminates them one by one until they propose to their forever life-partner.

Spoiler alert: these relationships almost NEVER work out and the franchise is plagued with enormous issues dealing with sexism, racism, homophobia, and more. It is hard to imagine a show whose creator/producer has been accused of domestic battery could be problematic, right? Oh wait. The Bachelor has dealt with toxic masculinity, slut-shaming, gaslighting and so much more, all without every actually calling out those behaviors. We’re here to set the record straight. Join us each week for a new live video and blog of Will You Accept This Rant where we’ll dive into the seedy underbelly and expose our culture’s obsession with unhealthy relationships.

Our major rant this week? CONSENT.

There isn’t much on the relationship front to report this week, as the first episode tends to be filled with cringe-worthy limo entrances (except Ashley P…you’re perfect and we’d do anything for you. Team Ashley P). The thing that stuck out the most was the utter lack of respect for Peter’s boundaries.

One contestant (Savannah, if you’re the kind of genius who can match names to faces after one episode) used her entrance to put a blindfold on Peter, feel him up, and kiss him. Which would be totally fine IF SHE HAD ASKED HIM FIRST. I’m not here to shame your blindfold-makeout sesh. You do you, boo. But you can’t can’t can’t can’t can’t do that without asking.

Another contestant (Tammy) puts Peter in handcuffs and pats him down, like the weird TSA-Hallmark Rom-Com crossover NO ONE asked for. Again, we weren’t shown any level of consent for that level of intimacy. In fact, Peter seemed hella uncomfortable.

1. TSA patdowns aren’t sexy. In fact, they can be pretty damn terrifying for people who don’t have the protection of White Privilege (you’re covered, Peter.).

2. DON’T TOUCH SOMEONE WITHOUT ASKING. Do we really need to say this?

There are only 2 possible scenarios here. Peter’s boundaries were crossed without his permission. Just because he’s a guy and just because he’s a guy who is known for having had sex does not mean that he can’t be violated. OR consent was asked for and given but not deemed important or sexy enough to be given airtime. Until we start making consent a CRITICAL and VISIBLE part of our romantic media, we won’t send the message that consent is necessary for nonabusive relationships. Get a yes, for everything, every time.

Our “Will You Accept This Rant” roses of the week go to:

Dead Rose–Everyone who has ever kissed someone without permission.
Rose–Ashley P the Cow

Perspective

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Did you hear our Perspective this morning on WNIJ?  If you’re not a radio listener, check it out at this LINK.

 

Outgoing Kentucky governor Matt Bevin is using his final days in office to make a powerful statement. On Nov. 22, Bevin announced he was pardoning Paul Hurt, a man serving life in prison for sexually abusing his six-year-old stepdaughter. If there is one thing I thought we could agree on, even in a country as divided as ours seems to be, I thought we could all agree that the abuse of children is a heinous crime for which people should be punished.

The facts around Hurt’s case are complicated and the pardon seems to rest on the activism of the judge in the original 2001 conviction who later worked privately to convince the victim to recant her testimony. The issues when you start digging into the case are far beyond what can be managed in a short Perspective.  But what isn’t complicated is this: we as adults have the ultimate responsibility for protecting our children. How we respond when a child discloses abuse and how we support them after that disclosure makes all the difference for how they will heal and whether that abuser will face consequences.

I believe the victim in Hurt’s case has had justice snatched away from her. I believe Matt Bevin has sent a message to child abusers that they will not be held accountable for harming children.  I believe our world is a more dangerous place for children because of this pardon.  And I believe that is completely unacceptable.

I’m Lynnea Erickson Laskowski and that’s my perspective.

Bevin, Bye.

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Content Warning: discussion of sexual abuse, sexual predators, and the legal system. No descriptions of sexual acts.

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As one of his final acts as Governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin has taken it upon himself to pardon a convicted child abuser. (LINK) The case is a highly unusual one that hinges upon a retired judge who became convinced of the innocence of the man he once convicted.

In 2001, Paul Donel Hurt was convicted of sexually abusing his six-year-old stepdaughter. The child reported the abuse at the time to her stepmother who contacted police. The child was able to describe in graphic detail what had been done to her.  She also exhibited many of the red flags typically associated with sexual trauma. Her behavior, her knowledge, and her testimony helped a jury convict Hurt of criminal sexual abuse and he was sentenced to life in prison.

The judge who oversaw the case, Stephen Mershon [and no, I’m not giving him an honorific here on purpose], began to correspond with Hurt in prison and eventually became convinced that Hurt was an innocent man.  He then began to communicate with the victim to try to convince her of the same. In 2015, after contact from Mershon, the victim recanted her 2001 testimony, saying that she had not actually been abused by Hurt. Mershon went so far as to assist the victim in writing a letter to a previous Governor asking to pardon her stepfather.  That attempt failed as did Hurt’s many appeals of his conviction.

Even after Mershon’s intervention and the victim’s 2015 recanting of her testimony, judges still refused to overturn Hurt’s conviction. The judicial opinion (LINK here) written at that time states that the victim only recanted her testimony after interference from Mershon and that her recantation was much less compelling and much more inconsistent than her original testimony. The appeals court ruled that Hurt’s conviction should stand.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of Hurt’s guilt, Mershon felt compelled to interfere and Governor Bevin felt compelled to do the same.  When Hurt was released from prison after his pardon, Mershon was the one to pick him up and drive him home.

Now, you might be asking yourself, if the victim recanted, why am I so upset by this? From the outside, this might look like an innocent man finally receiving justice. But as an expert working in the movement to end sexual violence, this case is all too familiar and shows the failings of our society to understand trauma and victimization.  There are a few important lessons we need to learn from this miscarriage of justice:

  1. Children RARELY lie about being sexually abused.  If a child has disclosed abuse to you, believe them.
  2. Children will often feel guilt over loved ones or trusted adults who face consequences for abuse. Given that 90-93% of child abusers are someone the child knows, this guilt is common.  It is not unusual that a child might later recant a disclosure of abuse because they are worried about a loved one.  It is also not uncommon that community members or family will make that child feel guilty if they are not very careful about consistently reminding the child that the abuse and the consequences the adult is facing are not their fault. Children who feel guilty will often recant abuse, even years later, to try to safe a loved one or a family relationship.
  3. Trauma is confusing and those with power should be mindful that they can alter or impact a victim’s memory by gaslighting them about what really happened.
  4. When we don’t hold offenders accountable, they will continue to abuse.  When we publicly don’t hold offenders accountable, we give the green-light to other abusers that they will not be caught. A pardon like this undermines justice for one young victim and empowers countless other predators who feel secure that they, like Paul Donel Hurt, will not face consequences.

The key is this: when any survivor of abuse tells you about their experience, believe them. That is the most important thing we can do. This is even more important for children who will look to us for how they should feel about what happened to them. Tell children you believe them, tell them it isn’t their fault, and fight like hell to keep them safe.

If you’ve been a victim of child sexual abuse, now or in the past, Safe Passage is here and we will believe you.  Call us 24/7 at 815-756-5228.

 

 

Ally

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A message from our Volunteer Coordinator, Pam Rosales:

Ally by Jaz Sufi

The movement to end sexual violence is filled with activists that are passionate in ending other forms of social injustice. In a culture where People of Color experience higher rates of sexual violence, racial equality is deeply interwoven in the movement. As the Volunteer Coordinator of Safe Passage, I meet passionate individuals who are dedicated in both fights. Being a Filipina Muslim American, I’m aware of just how pervasive racism lurks within this space.

This space, where survivors of color seek sanctuary and healing, is often times permeated with well-intended individuals claiming to be allies. Whose ‘wokeness’ is as performative as the ethnic artifacts hanging on the walls from their last mission trip. Jaz Sufi illustrates this performance in her poem:

“When I say ‘woke’, I mean she keeps the city up at night listen to how loud her allyship is, like it’s only worth the effort if everyone can hear its echo. She says ‘fireworks’ I say ‘gunshots’ she says I’m wrong, but you’ll never catch her in the kind of neighborhood where you learn to tell the difference…When I say ‘woke’, I mean she knows all the right words. Says ‘microaggression’ and tries to shrink me smaller. Says ‘white fragility’ and shatters into shrapnel. Blames the brown girl for all of her bruises as she carves the meat from my bones. But of course, the only damage here is what was done to her, by me, the terrorist.”

People of color who survive trauma from sexual assault are not free from the trauma of racism. They have to carry the heavy weight of both. If racial violence continues, sexual violence persists, and vice versa. People of color experience victim blaming with the added baggage of racism. When a person of color seeks support for their sexual assault, not only do they worry about whether or not they will be believed, but they have to worry about how their race affects their journey. Will the color of their skin affect whether or not they will receive proper medical care when they get a rape-kit done? If they share their story, will people blame their culture for being ‘oppressive’ and ‘backwards’? Will their citizenship be the focus of the conversation instead? This is the trauma that People of Color endure, often by the hands of “allies.”

Do impactful, genuine allies exist? Yes. This post is not about them. This post is about those who exploit the oppression of People of Color to wear as evidence for their activism. This post is about the “allies” who grab the microphone from us to speak for us, and then receive the accolades that should have been given to us. The thing about these allies, is that even though they might not see themselves as problematic, the people of color around them can spot them out easily. We see you, and we are not fooled.

While reading books like White Fragility is a start, it is not enough. There’s no simple answer to this complexity. I wish I can say that the answer is to travel, to have more People of Color in your inner-circle, to educate yourself on issues of racism, to learn more about our peoples’ history and culture – but I have seen “allies” partake in all of those things and still get it wrong. Instead, their knowledge of our culture and experience is weaponized against us through the form of tokenization, gaslighting and white saviorism. We do not need you to free us. We do not need you to speak for us. We do not need you coming into our ancestral lands, wearing our traditional clothing, speaking our mother tongue, and then stealing our identities to make yourself look “worldly.” We need you to listen. We need you to start by believing when you are held accountable on your racial abuse. We need you to be silent when we speak.

So I ask this: if I asked the people of color in your life what type of ally you are, what would they say?

T[M]I

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I’ve never seen the word “hymen” posted so frequently on my Twitter timeline.

In case you missed the news, rapper T.I. recently mentioned in a podcast that he goes with his daughter to the gynecologist each year to check that her hymen is intact.

Yep.  You read that correctly. (LINK here, if you don’t believe me.)

It is hard to know where to start with this one because there are so many things wrong with this. I suppose the best place to start is a reminder that this isn’t just a T.I. problem.  “Virginity Tests” and purity culture are as old as the patriarchy. As long as people have had sexual agency, other people have been trying to police their sexuality. Virginity tests, chastity belts, purity balls (not to be confused with Truck Nutz), genital mutilation and just straight-up shame have all been used (and are still being used) to keep people from having the independence and information to practice safe, healthy sexuality.

So just to clear a few things up:

  • Hymens are irrelevant.  Some people have them, some people don’t.  Some hymens break when you have sex for the first time.  Some break long before that due to activity. Some don’t break at all. You can’t tell someone’s sexual history from the structure of their genitalia.
  • Virginity is a cultural construct. It is not a thing you can lose or give away. It is a cultural frame of reference and it doesn’t matter (or even exist) if you don’t want it to! Having sex or not having sex does not change who you are as a person.
  • Your sexual history does not change your value.  If you’ve had one partner, zero partners, ten partners, or 10,000 partners, you are just as valuable as anyone else. If you choose to be abstinent at any point in your life, that is just fine.  If you choose to be abstinent until you get married, more power to you.  You do you!  That choice, however, does not make you any more moral or any better than someone who is making a different choice.
  • Sex does not change who you are as a person, no matter what.  You are not chewed-up gum, unsticky tape, unwrapped candy, or any other horrible analogy.  You are a person who deserves respect.

Aside from the lack of science and the unwarranted policing of people’s bodies, hypervigilance around virginity sends the message that your body doesn’t belong to you.  It sends the message that your body belongs to your father until it belongs to your husband. Too many young girls have been brought up with this message and have been taught that they aren’t in charge of their own bodies and their own sexuality. This leads to a culture that expects and tolerates sexual abuse.

And penetration by a doctor with a medical instrument for any non-medical reason IS ASSAULT.  And let me tell you, there is no valid medical reason to “check for a hymen”, so virginity tests are also abuse.

We may not all be taking our daughters for yearly hymen checks or locking up a metal chastity belt, but we all live in a culture that defines a woman’s value by her lack of sexual partners and sexual agency. We all live in a culture that values [female] virginity over enthusiastic consent. We all live in a culture that that tolerates and excuses sexual abuse and assault. The question is, what will be do to change that culture?