Thank You, Erin!

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Did you see our recent Letter to the Editor in the Daily Chronicle?  Read the full text of our letter below:

We all owe a great debt to a woman that many of us have never met.  You may not even know her name, but if you have a child who attends a public school, we certainly hope you have heard of her law.  Erin Merryn is a survivor of child sexual abuse and her tireless work led to the passage of Erin’s Law in Illinois five years ago.  Erin’s Law mandates that all students in public schools receive at least annual education on child sexual abuse and body safety.  The education is age-appropriate and progressive so students learn more and more each year about how to keep themselves safe.

We cannot sweep child sexual abuse under the rug and pretend that this issue does not exist.  You only have to turn on the news to be reminded of the dangers in our world.  From the recent trial of Dr. Nassar, the sports physician who abused hundreds of young gymnasts in his care to the cases we see in our own community, we know these dangers are present.  We want our children to be safe.  We want our families, schools, and communities to be safe places for them.  We want every child to grow up happy and healthy.  The way to achieve this, however, is not to ignore the risks, but to have open and frank discussions with our children about consent, body autonomy, and safety.

We have said it before and we will say it again: abuse thrives in silence.  Erin Merryn was afraid for many years.  She was afraid to speak out and afraid that she wouldn’t be believed.  Part of her deepest motivation to create and pass Erin’s Law was so other children would come forward and tell an adult about the abuse that they’ve endured, knowing that they would be heard, believed, and helped.  We at Safe Passage are proud to be a part of that effort.  We are proud to work with local schools to provide the mandated child abuse prevention education.  We are proud to work with survivors of child sexual abuse to help them process and heal.

If you lived through abuse as a child or if you have a child who has lived through abuse, please know that help is available.  No matter when the abuse occurred, our free and confidential services, including counseling and legal advocacy, are available to you 24/7.  Call our hotline at 815.756.5228 to talk to someone and take the first steps toward healing.

We are grateful to Erin Merryn for her advocacy and tireless work on behalf of all children.  We look forward to the day when Erin’s Law is passed in all 50 states and we are proud of Illinois for leading the nation in signing Erin’s Law five years ago.  We are working toward a world where no child is ever abused and we will continue to speak out until that world becomes a reality.

Mary Ellen Schaid

Executive Director

Safe Passage

2018 Nonprofit Organization Award

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Last night the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual awards banquet.  For the first year ever, an award was given honoring an exceptional nonprofit organization operating in DeKalb County.  The honorees included many outstanding organizations including the DeKalb County Community Gardens, Adventure Works, the DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association, and the Egyptian Theatre.

Safe Passage was honored to be recognized alongside organizations doing such important work to provide critically needed services and services that make DeKalb such a wonderful place to live and work.  We were beyond honored to be recognized as the winner of the 2018 DeKalb Chamber of Commerce Nonprofit Organization Award!

It is an honor to serve survivors of domestic and sexual violence and it is an honor to partner with our community to end domestic and sexual violence.  So much of our work goes on outside the public eye, but this year, more than any other, we are thrilled to see our community and the country beginning to pay attention.  We must all stand together, united in saying that we will not tolerate violence and abuse.  We are proud to be recognized by our community and even more proud to be given the opportunity to support and stand beside survivors each and every day!

Thank you to our staff who work so hard and with so much passion; thank you to our board who give so much to guide and support this organization; thank you to our community who stand behind our critical work; and thank you to our clients who are the reason we work with such passion for the hope of a brighter, safer future!

GET A YES

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CN:  First linked article contains graphic description of sexual misconduct and lack of consent.

As the #MeToo movement continues to grow, we have to reckon with the fact that many public figures we’ve admired will come under the radar.  For me, that reckoning came with the news that Aziz Ansari was being accused of sexual harassment and assault.

I’ve always admired Ansari as an outspoken feminist and activist.  He’s spoken frankly about the wage gap, the plight of people of color in America, and the importance of representation in the media.  Not only that, he plays Tom Haverford in Parks and Rec, an [almost always] upbeat and encouraging show about the power of friendship, public service, and strong women.

So when I first saw the news break on Twitter and first saw the article on Babe.net, I wanted to come up with excuses for Ansari.  I’m not proud of it, but I did.  I wanted to talk about the fact that this didn’t seem to rise to “Weinstein” or “Trump pussy grabbing” levels.  I wanted to do anything but face the humanity of an entertainer I enjoyed.

But as I read the article, I couldn’t help but notice how familiar the woman’s experience seemed. The date who seems less interested in getting to know you as a person than in getting to know how to get your clothes off.  The date who assumes he has a yes, because he hasn’t yet heard a no.  The struggle to gently and kindly indicate that you’re uninterested without flat out refusing (because we all know how poorly a straight NO can be taken).  The date willfully ignoring or being too uneducated in consent to understand your nonverbal (and eventual verbal) cues that you are NOT into the sexual encounter.  You going home in tears while your date assumes it was a [fairly] successful evening.

Who hasn’t experienced this?  I saw a tweet after the story was published that said:

“I saw someone tweet something like, ‘If what Aziz Ansari did was sexual assault, then every woman I know has been sexually assaulted’ and like yeah actually.”

This is the problem.  Not every woman has experienced a Harvey Weinsten, but almost every woman has experienced an Aziz Ansari.  A probably well-meaning guy who has gotten the message from our culture that consent is just the lack of a no.  A probably well-meaning guy who has gotten the message that no just means convince me.  A probably well-meaning guy who just doesn’t get it and who needs to sit down and listen to women and femmes for a while.

This is why we need to talk about this.  Not because we need to crucify Aziz Ansari.  Not because we need to dissect whether or not this story deserves to be a part of the #MeToo movement (but a hint…it does).  We need to talk about this because this type of sexual assault is common.  Sexual assault centered around men and mascs willingly ignoring consent or being so uneducated that they don’t truly understand it.

We need to be teaching everyone that consent is active, enthusiastic, and ongoing.  We need to teach that it is okay to talk with your sexual partners about boundaries, likes, and dislikes.  We need to create a consent culture in which it is expected that you will ask, that it is sexy, romantic, and just plain mandatory to get verbal consent. We need to be teaching that No Means No is not enough.  We need to be teaching that you must Get a Yes.

Its common decency and I’d like to be able to expect that from everyone.

If you’d like to read more hot takes on this story, I’d recommend checking out the following:

Grace, babe, me too.

Intersectionality

If you’ve experience something like this, or sexual abuse of any kind, there is help available.  Contact us at 815.756.5228.  We believe you and we are here for you.

Justice and Injustice

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Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Today, we share our favorite MLK quotes.  We hear people talk about his dream.  We feel good, remembering the feelgood moments of a powerful, inspirational leader.

Those parts of Dr. King matter.  We need to hear his powerful words of love and hope.  We need to hear that the “arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”  We need to remember that dream of a world where every child is judged by their character, not their race.  We need the inspiration that through it all, Dr. King chose love, not hate.

But we also need to hear and to heed his powerful words of justice.  We need to remember that while he lived, he was often reviled and dismissed by white leaders and white communities.  He was considered dangerous and radical because he spoke truth into a world of racial injustice.  He is the man who reminds us that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  He is the man who reminds us that “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Dr. King was and remains a reminder that we must all choose a side, that remaining neutral is not an option.

Today, of all days, we must be honest about the history of the movement for female safety and empowerment that gave birth to shelters and crisis centers like Safe Passage.  Too much of our history was tied up in racism and classism as much as it was tied up in feminism.  Founding mothers often fought for the rights of white women at the expense of our sisters of color.  We fought for emancipation for white women, willing to sacrifice emancipation for people of color if it got white females the vote.  We made progress in diagnosing and treating critical women’s health issues, but have rarely admitted or made restitution for the fact that these medical breakthroughs were thanks to non-consensual medical experimentation on enslaved women of color.  We have fought for reproductive justice, ignoring the very recent history of sterilization programs for incarcerated women of color.  We speak out against domestic and sexual violence, but rarely stop to highlight the incredible dangers faced by transwomen, and particularly transwomen of color.  Our shelters, our boards, our coalitions are too often overwhelmingly staffed and led by white, cis-gendered women.

If we truly want to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, today is a day to be honest about both our successes and failures to live up to his dream.  We are proud of the work we do as crisis center employees.  We are proud of the work we do as activists.  We believe in the mission and vision to end domestic and sexual violence.  But we know we must do more to include and support people of color in our mission.  We know we must do more to acknowledge and overcome a history of racism in our movement.  We know we must do more to fight systemic racism alongside sexism, homophobia, transphobia and so much more.

Today, we remember and honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and all those who have followed in his powerful footsteps to speak truth to power and hold allies accountable.  We dream of a better future without violence of any kind and we commit to holding our movement accountable to that dream.

We Will Not Be Silent

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Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. – Martin Luther King Jr.

Growing up, MLK day was one of my favorite holidays. In school, we spent the days surrounding the holiday learning about King’s sacrifices and together we were able to reflect on the world then compared to now. It was always hard for me to comprehend how much hate there was – it almost seemed unbelievable.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve unfortunately learned that in many ways, we still live in the world that sought to silence Martin Luther King, Jr.  We live in a world too often filled with violence and hatred and injustice. But like Dr. King, we can’t give up.  We cannot stay silent in the face of injustice.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, think about the injustices in our world.  As King did, let’s speak up. Let’s talk about the things that matter to us and educate our friends, family and neighbors. For us, we will speak up and will never stop speaking up about domestic and sexual violence. Stand with us and stand for justice everywhere by speaking up about the violence you see and even the violence you don’t see all around you.

One day, I hope our children live in a world free from domestic and sexual violence. One day, I hope their minds can’t comprehend the abuse, hate, and injustice we’re all too conscious of. Until that day, learn how you can help or get help. Give love, get love, live the love like Martin Luther King, Jr.

Give us a call: 815.756.5228.

I Don’t Need Counseling!

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Many people are hesitant to meet with a counselor because they don’t really know what counseling is.  We know going to counseling or being in therapy can seem scary or negative.  It may feel like something is wrong with you.  In truth, the opposite is true!  Reaching out for help can be one of the hardest, bravest, and most healing things you can do. A counselor isn’t going to shame you, judge you, or bully you into changing.  They are your support system; someone you have in your corner to help you process, understand yourself, and start healing.

If you’ve ever wondered if counseling is right for you, read on.  This description is meant to explain what counseling is and isn’t and to outline what clients can expect when meeting with a Safe Passage counselor.

Most counseling appointments are made through our 24-hour hotline.  Hotline staff will ask whether you would like domestic violence or sexual assault counseling.  If you need to talk about your situation with the hotline worker when you call, you can do that and they will listen, validate, and guide you in the right direction.  You will then be scheduled with the appropriate counselor for an intake appointment.  At this appointment, you will be greeted by your counselor in the lobby.  The counselor will introduce themselves and walk you to their office.  Once there, the counselor will allow you to share what brought you into counseling.  You are allowed to go at your own pace and the counselor will never pressure you to discuss or share anything you are uncomfortable with.  The counselors at Safe Passage are committed to being client-centered and trauma-informed which means that you, as the client, get to direct the course of counseling.  At some point during the first session you will be asked to complete some intake paperwork.  Again, you don’t have to share anything you are uncomfortable sharing.

It is up to you how long you stay in counseling and even if you want to return after the intake.  The initial process of seeking help can be overwhelming and Safe Passage staff recognize that.  If you don’t feel ready, we will still be here when you are.

All sessions with your counselor will be collaborative.  Your counselor recognizes that you are the expert on your own life and they are there to guide and support you on your journey.  After a few initial sessions you and your counselor will begin developing specific counseling goals.  As sessions continue, your counselor will help you to move forward on your goals.

Safe Passage staff do not ask clients “what is wrong with you?”  Our staff ask “what happened to you?”  We know you are here because you have experienced some trauma and that you are seeking help because you are struggling with the aftereffects of that trauma.  Our counselors are trained to help clients recover from the trauma they have experienced, whether the trauma occurred recently or in the past.  People of all ages can access counseling at Safe Passage.  If you have any questions about counseling services, the hotline staff can answer those questions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 815-756-5228.

We know it can be difficult or scary to reach out for help, but when you are ready, know that we will be here!

Money Money Money

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Iceland makes historic move for gender equality.

Iceland is starting 2018 off right with a move to mandate equal pay for equal work, regardless of the gender of the employee.

Unfortunately, here in the USA, we’re far behind.  Although the gender gap in wages has been shrinking, wages aren’t expected to equalize until 2119, over 100 years from now.  Furthermore, that wage gap also varies greatly dependent on race.  A white woman could expect to earn, on average, $0.77 for each $1.00 her white male counterpart made for the same job.  An African-American woman could expect to earn $0.63.  A Hispanic or Latina woman could expect to earn just $0.54 compared to the dollar of her white male co-worker.  This doesn’t even begin to factor in the additional obstacles face by women (especially women of color) in the LGBTQIA+ community.

Why does this matter to a domestic violence agency?

Aside from the obvious issue that an unequal society is bad for all of us, domestic violence is often connected with our capitalist system.  Financial abuse is common and a lack of financial resources is frequently listed as one of the top reasons that victims of abuse stay in dangerous relationships.

When women have access to equal resources, equal support, and equal pay, they are more likely to be able to leave an abusive relationship.  We need shelters like Safe Passage, but we need so much more than that.  We need legislation like Iceland passed.  We need guaranteed childcare and healthcare.  We need paid parental leave.  We need services and legislation that protect the rights of women and femmes everywhere so that they can be safe.