Remembering

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The massacre at Columbine High School was 19 years ago today and listening to the voices of students, it feels like not much has changed.  School shootings are still common and mass violence has become all too familiar.  From students at Parkland to music fans in Las Vegas to churchgoers in Sutherland Springs, questions are being asked about what can be done.

In the 19 years since Columbine, debates have raged about what or who is to blame for gun violence.  We’ve heard it blamed on Marilyn Manson.  We’ve heard it blamed on easy access to guns.   We’ve heard it blamed on violent video games.

We want to remind everyone about a factor in mass violence that is too often forgotten: domestic violence.  In seven out of the eight largest mass homicide events in recent American history, the domestic terrorist had a history of domestic violence or misogyny.

The shooter in Las Vegas was verbally abusive to his partner in public.  The shooter at Pulse in Orlando had a history of domestic battery and strangulation.  The shooter at Sandy Hook believed women were inherently selfish.

If we are ever going to solve our country’s undeniable issue with mass violence and gun violence, we will have to face the fact that we live under the threat of a cult of toxic masculinity.  When men feel entitled to women’s affection and attention, they learn to respond violently when they don’t get it.  Boys are taught that they are owed sex, relationships, and obedience from women.  Boys are taught that they must never, under any circumstances, show or feel any emotion other than anger.  Boys are taught that the best way to respond to any sort of disrespect or rejection is violence. This is a dangerous combination.

Domestic violence must be taken seriously.  Abusers with a history of nonfatal strangulation must be taken seriously.  We need to work, as a society, to build a safer world where our children are allowed to be whole and healthy individuals.  Until then, however, we need to work harder to keep guns out of the hands of abusers and take misogynistic and abusive threats by people with a history of violence seriously.

If you’ve been a victim of violence, help is available.  Give us a call 24/7 at 815.756.5228.

 

Child Abuse Prevention Month

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We’ve been spending a lot of time preparing for April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but did you know it is also Child Abuse Prevention Month?  Read our article in DeKalb’s Daily Chronicle to learn how we are working with our community partners to prevent child abuse and support child survivors. (LINK TO ARTICLE)

Our Erin’s Law education is a critical component of child abuse prevention.  We are in the schools in our county helping kids learn about body safety, body autonomy, and their rights to safe and healthy relationships.

If you’d like to learn more about our services for children and teens, visit our website (www.safepassagedv.org) or call us at 815.756.5228.

I’m not throwing away my shot

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My partner and I went to see Hamilton last night.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, Hamilton the Musical is the story of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who came to America as an immigrant, fought in the Revolutionary War, and paved the way for the financial success of the new country.  He was also pretty famous for dying in a duel after being shot by Aaron Burr.

I’ve been in love with this show since I first heard the music and seeing it live was an incredible experience. As I listened to the songs I’ve heard a million times before, seeing them coming to life for the first time, some of the lyrics struck me in a whole new way.

In one of the most famous songs, My Shot (link), Hamilton sings about making the most of every opportunity that comes his way, no matter the challenges he faces.  Several moments in the song stuck out to me.  The first, in light of #MeToo, is when Hamilton sings that “This is not a moment, it’s the movement.”  We’ve written about it before, but #MeToo and #TimesUp are not just a glitch or an aberration.  People have been being abused, harassed, and assaulted for thousands of years and brave survivors have been talking about it.  We just haven’t been listening.  This is the moment when we started to seriously listen but it has to be more than that.  It has to be more than the moment when we started paying attention.  It has to be the movement for lasting change.

The next moment that stood out to me was when John Laurens (historically, a close friend of Hamilton) sings that “we’ll never be truly free until those in bondage have the same rights as you and me.” On its own, this is something we as a nation have to learn to face.  We need to reckon and struggle with that issue that our country was founded on ideals that we didn’t extend to people of color.  We have to reckon and face the fact that our country was built on slavery.  Our struggles as a nation to this day are connected with the racist history that pervades every element of our modern institutions.  We can’t ignore that.  And on a more personal level, for the movement to end sexual assault and for the women’s right’s movements, we have to address the fact that our struggle for equality and action was often promoted at the expense of people of color.  White women, particularly, led early action but left their sisters of color behind.  People of color cannot be collateral damage on the path to equality.  We are not free until we are all free.  John Laurens knew this and we have to learn it.

Finally, the villain in the story, Aaron Burr sings that Hamilton and his friends should “lower your voices.  Keep out of trouble and you double your choices.”  He tells them to keep quiet, don’t rock the boat, and go along to get along.  This kind of moderating influence is popular in social change organizations.  We tell people not to upset the status quo.  We encourage changemakers to work within the system as it exists.  We try to reform from within.  That can work.  That can be the right option.  But sometimes it isn’t.  Sometimes we have to be bold.  Sometimes we have to be like Hamilton and be willing to wade into the mess and get dirty fighting for what we know is right.  We can’t patiently wait for men and women to be treated equally.  We can’t just hope that society will stop victim-blaming and shaming survivors of sexual assault.  We can’t ask politely for the gun control reform that will save the lives of thousands of abuse victims who are at higher risk of death due to easy gun access for abusers.  We have to speak out and stand up, even if we speak out and stand up alone.

Hamilton had a difficult life.  He faced overwhelming childhood trauma.  He faced bias and prejudice as an immigrant.  His boldness angered many people in power.  But his strength changed a nation.  My hope is that our agency will have a similar courage and power in speaking out for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and we hope you’ll stand with us until everyone feels truly safe and truly free.

If you need help or support, you can reach us 24/7 at 815.756.5228.

Own Your Mistakes

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We all have reasons why we are the way we are:  bad habits we picked up from a roommate, a passive-aggressive attitude we learned from a parent; a coping mechanism we learned from a character on TV.  Maybe we were picked on in school.  Maybe someone said something hurtful to you that just keeps rolling around in your head.  Maybe you had a bad breakup.

There are all sorts of explanations for who we are.  There are reasons behind the good and the bad.  I always say “drive careful” and I can’t let my partner leave the house without saying “I love you” because that’s what my family did growing up.  I like that about me.  I also have a tendency to give up when things don’t come easily to me because I spent a lot of my formative years being afraid of being adequate.  That’s something I don’t like so much.

Speaking with a therapist is a great way to start processing some of these explanations, both the good and the bad.  It can help you come to a deeper understanding of yourself.  It can help you root out the bad and cultivate the good in you.  It is good to reflect on and understand what makes you tick.

The problem comes when we either don’t take the time to reflect on why we act the way we do or when we reflect but let that deeper understanding turn from explanations to excuses.  I may feel empathy for someone who has been hurt, but that doesn’t mean their pain gives them a pass to hurt someone else.  If I’ve experienced pain, I don’t get to lash out at you without consequences.

Too often in our society, when someone (especially a white, male someone) hurts someone, we immediately start to hear excuses for their behavior.  A recently published story about Harvey Weinstein is a great example (LINK).  While I empathize with those who have been bullied, with those who have been afraid they’ll never experience romantic love, with those who had a rough family life, plenty of people experience those issues without going on to exploit and abuse those over whom they have power.  There is a term we have for people who do those things and it is not “tragic victim,” it is “abuser.”

Do I hope we build a world without bullying, a world filled with love and hope and a world where every child is treasured and protected from their earliest childhood?  Absolutely.  But will I excuse the behavior of abusive individuals?  No.  The first step to overcoming abusive behavior is learning to take accountability for your own choices.  I hope Mr. Weinstein is able to do that.

If you’re concerned about your own behavior and choices, we have a Partner Abuse Intervention Program that can help you move from excuses to accountability.  Give us a call at 815.756.5054.

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!

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!