“Want to be an activist?  Start with your toys.”

By Judy Szeg, Educator, Safeline

All too often, adults seem to think that youth should be followers, not leaders.  That they should not challenge the status quo, if for no other reasons than that challenging the status quo is difficult and we adults feel that those efforts are not likely to be successful.

Thirteen year old McKenna Pope proved us wrong several years ago when she took on an issue, gender stereotype toys, which was important to her.  Her younger brother was interested in cooking but the conventional cooking toy, the Easy-Bake Oven, was designed in “girly” colors and only featured girls in its advertisements.  So, McKenna began a Change.org petition to request that toy giant Hasbro change the design of the oven and the way it is advertised.  She raised over 45,000 signatures and Hasbro agreed to make the changes she suggested.

Hear what she has to say about her endeavor in the following TED talk and, adults, take note!

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Listen to the Lyrics! Problematic Messaging in Music

By Megan Fariel, Hartford High School Alum                                                                                Guest Youth Writer

There are a lot of great songs on the radio, but unfortunately, the music of my generation is known for autotune, graphic descriptions of behinds, and way too many songs about “sex in da club” and other sex acts. A lot of this type of music is harmless, albeit mindless, but a lot of it isn’t.

Our music is riddled with objectification and stereotypes. Some songs are even downright creepy in their messaging, and one in particular stands out to me: the song Feelings by Maroon 5. Melodically, it’s quite a catchy tune. But as soon as you start listening to the lyrics, it’s hard to listen to the song the same way. A sample of the chorus from azlyrics.com…

If you want me take me home and let me use you

I know he doesn’t satisfy you like I do

And does he know that there’s nobody quite like you

So let me tell you all the things he never told you

I got these feelings for you

And I can’t help myself no more

Can’t fight these feelings for you

No, I can’t help myself no more

I, I, I

Wait, what??

These lyrics are problematic.  Phrases like “use you” and “help myself” are harmful because they perpetuate the objectification of women as well as the stereotype that men have no self-control. Both of these ideas harm all individuals, regardless of gender. Also, Continue reading

Exposed and Uncovered – Child Sexual Abuse in Your Community: How it Happens, How to Respond Part I

 

By Laura Young, Youth Advocate, Umbrella

On Friday, June 9th a local St. Johnsbury counselor was arrested for sexual assault of a child (a 14 year old young man) and recording a sex act of a minor. Many of our community members have been left reeling and angry. How can a man with that level of trust in the community rape a young boy? Not to mention the question lying in the back of our heads as advocates and concerned community members-how many more children did he violate?

I recently watched the movie Spotlight which covered the way that the Boston Globe brought to light the sexual violence occurring within the Catholic Church in the early 2000’s. I couldn’t help but think of this movie as I think of the actions of the counselor in St. Johnsbury. In both situations, the priests and, in this case the counselor, used their standing in the community to cover up their actions.

At this point, when I think of those in authority who abuse children there’s so much I could say. I could keep you reading for days but I will try and sum up just a few (okay, seven) of my thoughts on how this happens and what to do if your community has been affected by child sexual abuse.  Here are three of my thoughts…watch for Part II for the rest!

  1.  An abusive person from outside of the family is generally a trusted, well liked member of a community and of a child’s life.

First, it is important to note that, according to the National Sex Offender Public Website, 30% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are members of the child’s family.

Of the 70% that are not family members, we tend to have this image in our minds of a perpetrator of a man in a white van offering candy to small children. Although sexual abuse by strangers does happen (10%), the truth is that 60% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are people well known in the victim’s family or the surrounding community. Someone with the communities’ trust and respect. Perhaps we like to think of the man offering candy as a way to protect ourselves from thinking that we may give our trust to someone who could violate our child but this is not the (horrible) truth. Taking a look at the National Center for Victims of Crime’s website we learn that “3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well.” This includes individuals that their family and community knew well too.

Often, perpetrators look for places to work or volunteer where they will be around children. They will make an effort to get close to the child’s caregiver and earn their trust or look for a child who does not have actively involved adults. They may intentionally be a friend to families who are having family difficulties and they may hang out in places where children frequent, they may offer to coach or mentor children etc.

Also, people who are seeking to abuse children may use their ties to religious organizations, sports or schools (or in St. Johnsbury’s case their work in a counseling office) to their advantage. Within these organizations, children are taught to trust and respect whomever their authority is (as they should be able to do). Additionally, by being involved in the community, especially in religious organizations the perpetrator has established themselves as someone who shares certain values which causes some parents and some community members to naturally be more trusting of this individual because they hold them to a higher moral standard.

  1.  A sexual predator will groom their victim and their victim’s family as well as the surrounding community

Grooming is an action that a sexual predator takes in order to earn the trust of a child and Continue reading

5 Things About Sexting that Aren’t Legalese

by Amanda Rohdenburg, Director of Advocacy, Outright Vermont

1. First things first:  Sexting is a slang word created by pushing ‘sex’ and ‘texting’ together.  So then ‘sexting’ is a sexual text exchange, sometimes including nude pictures.  It can happen through a whole range of social media (Facebook, Twitter), electronic devices (computers, camera phones, tablets), and applications (i.e. SnapChat).

2. All ages of people send these types of messages, not just teens.  Members of Congress, celebrities.  It’s endorsed openly in popular magazines; in 2013 Cosmo published an article listing partial nude pics among activities on so-called first base. The roots of the abuse of this media aren’t in the technology or the kids; they’re embedded in the same sexist, violent bedrock that supports all kinds of sexual violence.

3. Consent is a huge concern when it comes to sexting. Consent can only exist when there is a balance of power including: awareness of consequences both positive and negative–AND what it means for the relationship; Continue reading

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

by Emily Fredette, Educator at Women Helping Battered Women

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month All month long, adults and teens across the country will be raising awareness of teen dating violence and engaging in conversations about relationships.  Teen Dating Violence is defined as a pattern of violence or coercive behaviors that someone uses to gain and maintain power and control over a current or former dating partner.  Statistically 1 in 3 teens will be a survivor of dating abuse in their lifetime, and two out of every three teens know a survivor of dating abuse.  It is an issue that is all too common in teen relationships.

This February, give the power back!  Allow teens to take the lead in raising awareness and facilitating conversation. 

Need a few ideas for engagement?  Here’s what you can do:

  • Participate in conversations about safe and healthy relationships. Check out this conversation guide from breakthecycle.org.   Ask, listen, and validate youth opinions and experiences.
  • Wear Orange on February 10th! Orange is the official color for teen dating violence awareness.  Dress yourself from head to toe in orange to show your support.  Encourage other adult allies to dress in orange too.  Take a picture and post to social media!
  • Promote awareness events during Respect Week 2015. Some ideas include hosting a relationship jeopardy game, getting athletes to don orange gear during a sporting event, or host a bake sale and donate the money to a local DV agency.  Allow youth to take the lead, and support them to make it happen.
  • Provide information about resources and support available for you. Make sure youth know where to access accurate information and confidential support.  Look for a Vermont Network program near you.

 

Relationship Status Book: New and Improved

By Judy Szeg, Educator, Safeline 

Hey out there!  We’d like to point you toward our newly revised Relationship Status Book which is now available on the web.  You can download it or check it out as an online Flip Book.  rs book

Relationship Status is a perennial publication of the Network’s designed for youth in Vermont about healthy relationships.  In addition to information that will inform youth about supporting and controlling relationships, sex and consent, drugs and alcohol and resources for finding support – there are new pages that talk about dealing with conflict, how to handle break ups, and virtual connections.

 

Another resource was also recently updated.  Our Teen Dating Violence, Sexual Violence, and Protection Orders: The Law and Your Rights booklet provides information about legal options for teens who have experienced dating violence. It is available as a downloadable pdf.

If you are located in Vermont and would like a hard copy of either brochure, please contact your local Vermont Network program.

 

 

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.

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

#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

OMG SEXTING!

 By: Bethany Pombar, Prevention Specialist, Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

The world is changing; there is no doubt about it. The first photos were sent via a phone in 1997; by 2006 over half of the cell phones sold in the world had picture capabilities. By the time the first iphone was released in 2007, we were primed for easy photo sharing. Today’s youth expect everything to be photographed and shared. It is their way of exploring the world and connecting to each other. An entire marketplace of “apps” has grown to support picture sharing: Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Wink, Flickr, Rando, the list grows every day.

Along with this ease of access has come a growing concern over sexting Continue reading