It’s not your fault. Ever.

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Content note:  discussion of violent sexual assault and victim-blaming.

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A student was violently sexually assaulted by an acquaintance this weekend at NIU (LINK to article).  The student was working on a final project for school when the attacker stopped by, physically attacked and sexually assaulted her, finally dropping her off at the local hospital.

To their credit, the university police connected the victim immediately with services from Safe Passage and took immediate steps to ban the attacker both from campus and online courses.  We are so grateful for their thoughtful, victim-centered statement and actions following the attack.

The survivor was back at school on Monday, finishing her art project.  Some online took this as an opportunity to question her credibility, wondering how someone could go through a traumatic and violent experience and return immediately to work.

If there is one lesson we should learn from survivors and from the outpouring of survivor stories in the #MeToo movement, it is that each person’s experience is different.  One survivor may need weeks, months, even years to be able to return to “normal life”.  Some may experience triggers and trauma for the rest of their lives.  Some may be ready to pick up where they left off the next day.  One survivor may break down in tears, one may experience anxiety.  Another may laugh, brush off the attack, or be in a hurry to return to life as usual.  No one response is the “right” response.  No response makes a survivor’s story any less credible.

If you’ve been assaulted, know that you are allowed to respond however feels right to you.  You are the expert on yourself.  You are the architect of your healing journey.  No one response is more or less valid and no response means you are more or less a survivor.  You are equally entitled to belief, support, and help no matter how you respond to trauma.

Survivors should not have to prove that they “deserve” our support.  If you’ve never been a victim of sexual violence, we would invite you into journey of learning how important it is to support survivors.  Victim-blaming is a second form of trauma that survivors often have to face but when you start by believing, you tell survivors that they are not alone.

At Safe Passage, we have a commitment to Start By Believing.  This means if you tell us you’ve been a victim of violence, we will always believe you, support you, and help you in whatever ways you need.  We are available 24/7 at 815.756.5228.  You are not alone.

 

Give DeKalb County

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When I was in college, I had a roommate who would wake up at 3 am to watch tennis.  No watching replays for her.  Who cared if I had a test the next morning?  The match was on in Australia!  The only thing worse in a teeny room than a tennis-obsessed roommate was a teeny room with a tennis-obsessed roommate who also played trumpet.

Now I’m far from perfect and I’m sure she could tell you some horror stories from the days of living with me, but the point is we were both two privileged, nontraumatized strangers who managed to drive each other crazy in communal living.  We had the best opportunities for being able to peacefully coexist and it was a rough year.

Imagine now, that my roommate and I were both fleeing abusive relationships.  She has two children under the age of 5.  She and I have been living with abusive partners and I grew up in an abusive household.  I’ve learned to lie to get what I need to survive and I’ve learned to yell if I want my voice to be heard.  She struggles with a substance use disorder.  Now imagine that we had to share a room in our emergency shelter.  She and I and her two children in a room not much bigger than our freshman dorm.  There’s two bathrooms in the entire building for all 25 of us to share and one communal kitchen.

Imagine trying to heal under those circumstances.  Imagine trying to move on from an abusive past and face your trauma.  Imagine how much easier it might seem to just give up and go back home.  Imagine how difficult it would be to take the time to invest in your own mental health and healing.

For many of our clients, they don’t have to imagine.  This is our reality.  Our shelter, while it provides incredibly important and necessary emergency care, is still set up for just that: an emergency.  It isn’t designed to be a place of healing and wholeness.  Our staff have done so much with the limited budget we have, but we know there is so much more to do.

This year on May 3, Give DeKalb County is hosting the 5th annual community fundraiser for DeKalb nonprofits.  Please consider visiting www.givedekalbcounty.org on May 3 and make a life-saving donation.  Your donations ensure survivors continue to have access to emergency shelter, counseling, and advocacy, but also give us the flexibility to invest in projects to improve the emergency care we provide and ensure every survivor is given every chance to not only survive, but thrive.

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.

Healing

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I hurt my finger the other day.  I was hanging up a Christmas wreath and poked myself on some of the wire.  No blood, no mess…just minor injury to my pointer finger.  It continued to hurt throughout the day and as my mind went through a “Web-MD” style list of how I was undoubtedly going to die of this finger injury, I realized what I needed to do.

Put a band-aid on it.

For as long as I can remember, any wound felt better when I had a band-aid.  I didn’t have to be bleeding.  It didn’t have to be a visible cut.  I didn’t even have to remember how I got hurt in the first place.  I just knew if I felt bad, a band-aid made me feel better.

This was a source of frustration to my mother who saw our household budget for first-aid balloon as soon as I was old enough to reach the shelf with the box of bandages.  She would tell me over and over that I didn’t need a band-aid and if I wasn’t bleeding, a band-aid wouldn’t do any good.

In a way, she was right.  As a grown-up, logically, I know that a band-aid isn’t going to fix all my problems.  But at the same time, it always made me feel better.  My parents may not have been able to see how I was hurting, I may not have always known myself.  But I knew, and I was never wrong, that in some small way that band-aid on my sore finger or scraped knee or bruised elbow made me feel better.

If there is one person I am an expert on, it is myself.  I know when I’m hurting and I usually know what will make me feel better.  Sometimes it’s a relaxing evening with a good friend, sometimes it’s talking to a professional about my life and my past, and sometimes it’s a band-aid.

I’m guessing you’re an expert on yourself as well.  If you dig down deep, I bet you know a few of your own “band-aids”, the tips and tricks that lighten the load and help you feel better for a few moments.  Don’t forget to take the time to take care of yourself.  Take a night off when you can.  Spend a few moments meditating and centering as your day begins.  Reach out for help when it feels like too much on your own.

If you need a band-aid for an old wound that has scabbed over or a new hurt that is still bleeding, reach out.  There is help for you and there are people who will listen.  We’re one of them and we are available 24-hours a day at 815.756.5228.  Your pain matters and so does your healing.

Walk a Mile

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Mark your calendars and dig out your high heels!  Safe Passage is once again hosting “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes!”  An opportunity for our community to stand against sexual violence by putting yourself in the shoes of a sexual assault survivor for a mile walk in high heels!

April 14, 2018 at noon in DeKalb, IL with after party to follow at Fatty’s!  More details to come!

Walk a Mile is a great opportunity for everyone, but especially men in our community to stand together and say that we will end our rape culture that allows sexual harassment and abuse to persist.  Come join us for a fun and important event!

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Thankful

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We are thankful for the survivors who’ve shared their stories and bravely spoke up to say “#MeToo.”

We are thankful for the survivors who tell only those who help them to feel safe and whole, who remind themselves that a silent “me too” is just as powerful.

We are thankful for survivors who heard #MeToo and reached out for help and healing.

We are thankful for legislators, advocates, donors, and all who work to end intimate partner violence around the world.

We are thankful for our women and femmes who speak up boldly about their right to an equal and safe place in this world.

We are thankful for men who speak out about their own experiences, who reshape the narrative about assault and who call for their brothers to do and be better.

We are thankful for people of color and especially for women of color who fight intimate partner violence in a field that has been and continues to be all too unwelcoming of the anti-racist work that needs to be done.

We are thankful for trans men and women and gender-nonconforming folks and all in the LGBTQIA community who push our movement to be more inclusive and to fight for the rights of all.

We are thankful for a chance to work for a better future.  We are thankful that we know that future is coming.  We are thankful that each day we get the chance to continue the fight on behalf of all survivors.

We are thankful for YOU.

Violence is Violence is Violence

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Gun violence is becoming an American tradition.  The mass shooting in Las Vegas is being quickly driven to the back of our minds as our nation mourns churchgoers, gunned down as they worshiped in Sutherland Springs, TX.  Time and again we wonder how this could happen, what we could have done to prevent it, and how we can be better prepared in the future.

Violence does not occur in a vacuum.  These shooters, overwhelmingly men, have grown up in a culture that teaches them that violence is a source of power.  We teach young men and boys that toughness is a virtue.  We teach them not to cry, not to show any emotion other than anger.  We teach them that they prove their masculinity with their fists.  We teach them this and then wonder how they grow up to be men who live their lives by these principles.

When compassion, empathy, and respect aren’t nurtured, we grow our children into broken adults.  Our children, full of hope and life and opportunity, grow up to be adults who gain control with the force of a fist or down the barrel of a gun.  Our children grow up to abuse their spouses and their children.  Many end up turning that anger and need for control on an already-hurting world.

From the day our sons and daughters and our children are born, we indoctrinate them into a culture of fear, power, and control.  It is no surprise that the traits that create domestic abusers allow them to go on to become mass shooters.  Upwards of fifty per cent of mass shooters have a history of violence against their families.  We MUST address this fact if we are ever to address the true roots of gun violence in our country.

We have a gun problem in a country, but we also have a problem with domestic violence.  We need to be aware of the dangers that abusers pose, both to their victims and to society at large.  We need to work harder to keep guns out of the hands of abusers and teach law enforcement and the justice system to recognize the signs of escalating violence.  If we are ever to make progress in ending mass shootings, we must begin by taking domestic violence seriously.

Domestic violence shelters are key advocates in this fight and keenly aware of the dangers of abusers.  We know the struggles our victims face.  We know the keys to preventing violence in the first place.  We advocate for the needs of survivors and the right to a safer future.  We stand with all those calling for an end to gun violence and we ask them to stand with us for survivors of domestic violence.  We honor all those who have been killed by those who were supposed to love them and we will not give up on the journey to end both domestic and gun violence in our community, in our country, and in our world.

 

Recommended Resources:
Tough Guise 2–Jackson Katz
A Call to Men–Tony Porter

If you are worried about domestic violence and want to speak with a trained advocate, call our 24-hour hotline at 815-756-5228.