Thankful

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It is an important time of the year for reflection.  We know that this has been a difficult year for survivors. There have been high profile cases that have triggered and frustrated survivors.  There have been proposed rollbacks to protections for survivors on college campuses.  There have been murders, mass violence, and abusers who have walked free. We know the heartbreak and the challenges because we live in the midst of them every day.

But today, we want to talk about something else.  We want to focus on what we’re thankful for.  And what we are thankful for, more than anything else, is the fire of survivors.  This year has been difficult, but it has shown us, more than ever, the strength of each and every survivor of violence.

Strength looks different for each person and each circumstance, but we’re thankful this year for all the different types of power we’ve seen.

We’re thankful for the survivors of Dr. Nassar who have continued to speak out with strength and fire.  The sentencing of Larry Nassar was just the beginning and we’re grateful for each and every one of these women who continue to push for a change in our institutions and culture!

We’re thankful for voters in Alaska who voted against retention for Judge Michael Corey who oversaw the case of Justin Schneider and approved a plea deal that saw no jail time after a violent case of sexual assault. This decision by voters sent a strong message that judges must hold abusers accountable for their crimes.

We’re thankful for each survivor who spoke at our annual Domestic Violence Vigil in October and we’re grateful for all the community members who attended in support.  Together, we’re breaking the silence and the stigma around abuse.

We are thankful for survivors.  We’re thankful each time a survivor walks through our door seeking a safer future or even just a safer night.  We’re thankful for each survivor who sits down with one of our counselors and begins to process the trauma they’ve experienced.  We’re thankful for each survivor who raises their voice in anger or celebration.  You matter.  You are strong.  You deserve safety, healing, and hope.

We’re grateful for the chance to do the work we do.  We’re grateful that some day we won’t be needed.  We’re grateful that you are still surviving.

Thank you.

You are the Boss of your Body!

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My niece was getting ready for bed one night when I was home visiting my family.  She was just about to head upstairs and crawl into bed when my sister called her back to say goodnight to everyone.  As she made her way around the room, she hugged some of us, gave others high-fives, gave her grandparents goodnight kisses, and even gave one person a “goodnight wave.”  She knew (because my sister had taught her) that she didn’t have to hug someone if she didn’t want to.  She wasn’t being rude or unkind.  She was just doing what felt right to her in that moment.

The holidays are an important time for families to set safe boundaries with their kids.  We know that over 90% of the children who are sexually abused know and trusted the person who abused them.  It’s rarely the scary stranger in a white van, but rather is likely to be a member of the family, a babysitter, a family friend, or another person in a position of trust.  When a child is abused by someone they thought they could trust, disclosure becomes even more difficult, confusing, and frightening. When we teach our children that we’ll respect their boundaries, they learn that they are in charge of their bodies and they feel more empowered to speak up and tell an adult if someone hurts them.

This holiday season, we’d strongly encourage allowing your children to be in charge of their bodies, especially when it comes to greetings and goodbyes.  If Sally doesn’t want to hug Uncle Stu, let her know that it’s okay.  She can just wave instead!  If Peter doesn’t want to give Grandma a kiss on the cheek, a hug or high-five is just fine! When we give our children permission to make these types of choices, we let them know that we’re safe adults.  We let them know they could talk to us if they were ever being hurt.  We let them know that no one, no matter who they are, should touch them without getting permission.

If you’d like help in learning how to talk with your children about sexual abuse or learning more about how to keep kids safe, reach out to our Prevention Team at 815-756-7930, x106.

Runner

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I am not, nor have I ever been, much of a runner.  However, when my partner volunteered me for a Thanksgiving 5K Race, I realized I had better figure it out. I’ve been working through a Couch to 5K program and decided last night would be my first attempt at a full 5K.  I haven’t run this far since I moved several years ago (I know I know) so I don’t regularly run the trails near my house.  Needing to get some extra miles last night, I decided to take a path that ran through the woods a bit further than I usually go.

I immediately felt unsafe.  I immediately took out my headphones and started scanning my surroundings.  I even pushed myself to run a little bit faster until I got to a place where the woods thinned out and I could see houses and lights.  I felt so unsafe that I almost turned around.

Now, it could have been the podcast I was listening to (Believed, an NPR podcast about Dr. Larry Nassar’s years of abuse of young women–check it out). It could have been the area (our town had a murder on a running trail not far from there a couple of years before I moved out).  It could have been just my natural hypervigilance from years of working at a Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Crisis Center.

But whatever it was, the point is, I felt afraid to run by myself.  I felt afraid enough that I took out my headphones and scanned my surroundings as I ran.  I felt afraid enough that I almost gave up on my goal for that run.

And you know what?  My partner (a cis white male runner) runs those trails almost everyday, almost always after dark and he NEVER feels that fear.  He’s never had to wonder if they’ll find his body the next morning and blame him for what happened because he shouldn’t have been running alone at night.

I do.  Those fears for my safety AND the fears that I’d be blamed if something happened to me run through my head every time I step out the door. And that’s not just anxiety.  It’s part of the gig women and femme people seem to have been handed on the day we were born. And that’s not okay.

I should be able to run in peace, no matter my gender or race.  I shouldn’t be afraid of being murdered or assaulted just because I’m female.  I shouldn’t hold myself back from my goals because I wonder if it is safe enough to achieve them.

Whether it is running, receiving an education, landing that new job, taking up painting…whatever your goal might be, you deserve to achieve it without the fear of abuse and violence.  That’s why places like Safe Passage are so necessary.  We have to work to support survivors AND work to create a world where we can all live without fear.

We’re in for the long-haul.  We hope you’ll join us!

Politics

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Our Director of Prevention and Communication shared her perspective on WNIJ this morning (LINK).

She shares about the importance of voting, but also the importance of what we do AFTER we cast our ballots.  How do we hold our elected leaders accountable?  How do we ensure our representatives, from governors and Congress representatives to city councils and county board members, keep their promises and work for the needs of the most vulnerable in our communities? Our vote is just the first step.

We have to stay active and we have to stay vigilant.  Laws that hurt survivors of violence often pass in the background of our political landscape. Laws that protect survivors are on the verge of lapsing or being rolled back. Laws that create a safer society for all of us, laws that promote prevention education and encourage accountability need strong advocates.

Stay aware. Stay involved. Call your representatives and share your opinion.  Make your voice heard!  Follow Safe Passage on Facebook and we’ll do our best to keep you on the forefront of the battle to keep our community safe.

Issues we’re following:

-Delays in testing rape kits
-VAWA reauthorization
-Title IX rollback