Consent Around the Holidays: Watching the Messages We Give to Children

by Tori Nevel, intern at WISE, Lebanon, NH 

The holidays are upon us and for some of us that means family reunions and get-togethers with friends. No one wants to be the parent who raised rude children and so we ask our kids to greet distant family members politely with a hug or kiss.

Later down the road when we teach our teens about consent in sexual relationships, expectations from when they were young undermine this lesson. Think about it. We tell our teens that they should always get consent and that it should be an enthusiastic yes, but only a few years before we may have been telling them that they had to kiss grandma or had to endure their aunt’s cheek pinching even if they didn’t want to.

These actions can also have disastrous effects for children who are abused. In 88% of child abuse cases the perpetrator is known to their victim: often a relative, family friend, or babysitter. When we teach children that they must hug or kiss a relative even if they are uncomfortable with it, we invalidate their instincts. Children are taught that they have to do what their elders tell them to do, which makes it scary for them to “tell on” an adult who may be abusing them or making them uncomfortable.

So though we think that we are teaching our children to be respectful when we tell them that they have to kiss Uncle Jack, though we think we are teaching children to be friendly and accept a hug from a friend, though we think we are upholding tradition to make children sit in Santa’s lap, in reality we are teaching them that consent is not important and that adults are in charge of their body.

There are actions we can take and messages we can reinforce to support our kids in establishing a healthy understanding of consent.

Teach children other ways to politely greet people.

There are alternatives to hugs and kisses. Ask your kids if they’d rather give a handshake, wave, high five or blow a kiss and let them know that it’s perfectly okay to do so. Never make a child hug or kiss anyone.

Teach children that “no” means “no.”

The same goes for “stop” means “stop.” If you are tickling your child stop the moment they say, “Stop.” They will let you know if they were having fun and actually want to continue. If your kids are roughhousing and one of them says “stop” make sure that everyone stops and let the kids know that the game is no longer fun unless everyone is having fun. “No” and “stop” are important words and should always be respected.

Lead by example. Continue reading

Social Media: Does it help or hinder the fight to end sexual and domestic violence?

by Carmen Fisher-Olvera, Youth Advocate Intern – HOPE Works, 11th grade Champlain Valley High School, 16 years old

To be quite honest the answer wasn’t immediate. Social media has always been my “go to” place for awareness. I started really getting involved in the movement when I was around 12 years old. In time-sensitive matters when the public needs to be aware of the issue, like when victims are abducted or a victim is missing, social media never fails to inform.

As a youth advocate, social media is an irreplaceable resource. Victims come together with others in a method of healing, telling their story and coping with the trauma. To hear stories is heartbreaking however knowing that victims had the courage to post their story is inspiring. Campaigns to raise awareness spread more quickly than they ever have.

Social media can be abused, however. Some groups form in order to harass or hurt the victim. When inaccurate information is used it can shape public opinion and government policies for the worst. It can also reinforce myths and stereotypes of crime victims. Media coverage also can re-traumatize victims of violence if it is especially inaccurate.
The power that social media holds can be daunting, however it is important to embrace it. Social media is a gift, and I am sure I don’t realize the full extent of its power. Social media is here to stay, and it is our responsibility to use it for good.

My Beauty

 By Lucinda Brewer, Youth & Family Services Coordinator at Circle, Barre, Vermont

My Beauty- A short film about beauty and individuality made by a group of young parenting and expectant women 2 from Central Vermont Television on Vimeo.

My Beauty, the video posted above was created by the “Finding Our Voices” group facilitated by Circle, the domestic violence program for Washington County, Vermont. The group consists of Continue reading

More than calculus or history: teacher’s supporting students

By: Janie, age 17, Peer Advocate at South Burlington High School, Vermont for Women Helping Battered Women

I’m a Peer Advocate at Women Helping Battered Women, meaning that as a high school student, I work in my school to spread awareness about dating violence and domestic abuse. While this is my first year as a Peer Advocate, something that’s really stood out to me is this undiluted support I and other Peer Advocates have felt from the adults in our school.

I, for one, could not imagine being able to pull off our most recent event, Purple Ribbon Day, without the continuous support from the faculty Continue reading

Calling All Adult Allies

By: Amanda Rohdenburg, Director of Advocacy, Outright Vermont and Youth Advocate and Educator, Voice Against Violence, St. Albans,Vermont

This week has been full of conversations about allyship; how men can be better allies to the anti-violence movement, straight folks to the LGBT community, white folks to people of color.  Allyship is what happens when someone in a position of power and privilege works to counteract systems of oppression that they themselves benefit from.

The principles of allyship hold across the board: Recognize Continue reading

Remembering Teens Living With Domestic Violence

By: Judy Szeg, Advocate at Safeline in Chelsea, Vermont

We hear a lot about children who are exposed to domestic violence (also known as IPV – Intimate Partner Violence).  Unfortunately, we don’t hear or talk nearly enough about teens who are living in homes where one of their parents or caretakers is hurting the other. It is as if kids in homes with IPV become invisible when they become middle school age. Continue reading

Youth as Leaders in Their Lives

By: Willow Wheelock, Advocate, WomenSafe in Middlebury, Vermont

Youth experience and have to navigate many of the same circumstances that adults do: drug use and addictions, sexual assault or harassment, oppression (sexism, homophobia, racism, classism etc), abuse, control and/or violence in their dating relationships, abuse of power by others, alcoholism and more.  And while many youth may have access to programs or supports for these issues, rarely are there real opportunities for youth to take the lead in working towards social change; instead, Continue reading

Welcome to WholeSomeBodies!

By: Amy Torchia, Children’s Advocacy Coordinator, Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

WholeSomeBodies is a curriculum for adults who have children and youth in their lives—such as parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors. There are several trainers in Vermont who have the skills to bring this opportunity to you, your school, your parent community, etc.

Through the course, participants are able to… Continue reading

How Childhood Trauma Could Be Mistaken for ADHD

By: Amy Torchia, Children’s Program Coordinator, Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

It feels like Advocates have been talking about this for years.  We know that a good number of the kids with whom we work – children and teens who have experienced domestic violence, child sexual abuse, and sexual assault – are diagnosed with ADHD.  We have had infinite conversations with caretakers about situations where their children have been prescribed stimulants for ADHD to help increase neurotransmitter levels (connected to pleasure, movement, and attention) with no apparent positive impact on their behavior or emotional well-being.

Children who have experienced trauma often behave in ways that resemble those associated with ADHD.  They may have difficulty controlling their behavior and may quickly shift from one mood to the next. They might periodically ‘relive’ a terrifying memory and lose focus or become hyper-vigilant anticipating a threat to their safety.

For this group of children, could it be that it isn’t ADHD that is driving their seemingly inattentive, hyperactive and impulsive behavior?  Could it instead be Continue reading

#YesAllWomen: More Than a Twitter Trend

By Vivian Huang, Peer Educator with Women Helping Battered Women, age 16, South Burlington High School

Yes, all women have been degraded, discounted, and denied.
Yes, all women have been judged by our appearance, not our merit.
Yes, all women are outraged by the misogynistic ravings of 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, whose May shooting rampage in Isla Vista, Calif., killed six people and wounded thirteen others.

As the story unfolded, Rodger’s mindset appeared through chilling public videos and a lengthy manifesto. The shooter’s justification was that of pure hatred toward women who Continue reading