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Friday, August 30, 2013

Short Overview of NSAC2013

Perhaps, like many of us at the BARCC office, you weren't able to make it out to the National Sexual Assault Conference. For weeks,  CALCASA has been talking about both an impressive program and line up of speakers and performers.  It is truly one of the best places to make connections and build relationships with organizations across the nation who are also focusing on sexual violence.  However, thanks to social media, we can be a part of the conference by following the twitterfeed, Facebook, or instagram and searching for the #nsac2013.  So many organizations are live-tweeting the discussions, what they've learned, and who they have met. 

Perhaps it feels a bit overwhelming to sort through the thousands of tweets that currently exist.  I have been following the tweets the past couple of days and wanted to share a few of my favorite quotes, thoughts, and insights.  Day 3 is today and there is sure to be plenty more amazing work shared and conversations had.  What have been some of your favorite tweets you've seen?  You can quote or link to them in the comments below.
















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Posted by stacey on 08/30 • (0) CommentsPermalink

Friday, August 23, 2013

On Getting Some Help

Something that comes up often from people who call or come to BARCC is a feeling of uncertainty about whether the services available from BARCC are really for them.

Sometimes they worry that their experience was so long ago that the hurt they're feeling today must be less important than the hurt of someone whose experience was more recent. Other times, people who are the parents, or partners, or friends of someone who's been harmed wonder if they deserve to get services. Countless people who haven't figured out the words that feel right to describe an experience ask us if it's OK to be calling with questions.

Ashley, over at Blog a la Cart, wrote a post about seeking support after a trauma in her life.  While her experience was not of sexual violence, it beautifully articulates some of the struggle and relief that can surround getting help:

I’ve found people’s reactions to my candor about seeking mental and emotional counseling and support troubling. Many act surprised (appalled?) that I’m so comfortable openly talking about my need for therapy and even the support of pharmaceuticals to manage the anxiety and fear that took hold of me in the aftermath. Others tell me how “brave” I am to have gotten myself help so immediately. People shouldn’t be surprised. They shouldn’t think I am brave. I sought the medical help I needed when I was not feeling safe. When I was not myself. Just like I would for a broken limb or a sore tooth. My mental and emotional health is tied up in my physical well-being. There was no way I was going to let my anxiety get control of me, and impact not only my everyday, but my family’s, my children’s.

I deserved to feel safe. I deserved to get help.

We all do.

And we shouldn’t be fearful. And we shouldn’t shame those that need the support of mental health services, whatever the reason. And we shouldn’t judge or cast doubt on those that recognize when they are struggling and make use of the resources at hand to feel more themselves. To feel better. Safer.

I am so grateful that I no longer wake up in the night screaming. That I no longer relive flashback after flashback. That I’m not consumed by What Ifs. While the experience has changed me forever, I am feeling more in balance. I am finding my way back to me. And I know, with continued help and support, I’ll get there.

What we always say is, there's a very wide circle of people who are harmed when sexual violence happens, and sometimes the hurt or the disruption from that harm continues for a long time. And anyone in that circle deserves to feel better. Even if what we have to offer isn't quite the right fit, we're always happy to connect you with something that might work better.

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Posted by Meg on 08/23 • (0) CommentsPermalink

Monday, August 19, 2013

What Makes a Safe(r) Ride?

Unfortunately, the Boston area has heard of two reports recently of two individuals (at this time, police do not believe the incidents are connected) who raped people attempting to hail cabs in different areas of the city.

Any sexual assault is troubling, but it is particularly alarming to hear that the assailants in these sexual assaults targeted those who were looking for safer options for getting to their destination.

It is important to stress that the problem behavior here is that people are looking to victimize others. To do so, it appears they're trying to both pass their vehicles off as legitimate taxi or livery options and conceal their own identities.

Cab companies, livery companies, and apps or services that connect drivers, riders, and cars should be prioritizing giving you a safe ride. Here are some ways that an individual or company can demonstrate that they're committed to getting you where you need to go safely:

  • Vehicles are clearly marked. In all cities in Greater Boston that utilize a medallion system for licensed taxis, the medallion number, along with the name of the company, and a phrase such as "Boston Lic. Taxi" should be clearly displayed in multiple places on the body of the car. (The Boston Police have this photo of the markings on a licensed taxi in Boston. Unfortunately, not all Greater Boston cities and towns conform to the same marking standards, so for example, Cambridge or Brookline cabs might look different.)

    Livery companies and car sharing programs should also be able to clearly identify the vehicle that you have called for, either by signage, or by notifying you ahead of time of the make and model and license plate number of the car you're expecting. Any changes should be communicated to you in advance.
  • Drivers identify themself and have identification visible in the car. This should be posted clearly for passengers in the vehicle. Some companies will also provide a name and photo of the driver ahead of time. Some drivers for private livery companies may also have business cards. Some companies--though by no means all--do background screenings of their drivers.
  • Drivers are respectful and courteous and do not make passengers feel uncomfortable. In our past work on taxi safety, we heard stories from numerous riders--in licensed and unlicensed taxis, and from car services--about drivers who made comments about riders' clothes, bodies, or the fact that they appeared to be going home alone at night. This obviously left riders feeling vulnerable, since in most cases the drivers had the address of their destination.

Essentially, a legitimate taxi or car service with drivers who are behaving safely have set up a system that creates some accountability: it is easy to identify their cars and drivers and to locate them again after the ride is over. The safest ride option is the service or driver willing to demonstrate that to you and to make sure you feel comfortable riding with them. We have a right to safe ride options at all hours, in all neighborhoods.

Friends and community members can talk with those in their lives who are attempting to style their private vehicles in a way that mimics a taxi or car service vehicle, or have spoken about offering unsolicited rides to people they don't know, as this is not safe behavior.

As always, our 24/7 hotline--800.841.8371--is available not just to those who have experienced a sexual asault, but also to those who might be concerned or feeling vulnerable in the wake of assaults in our community. A number of neighborhoods and communities have experienced violence in the past few months that have left individuals feeling unsafe and wanting some tools for themselves. We'd like to recommend our colleagues at IMPACT, a Boston-area organization offering realistic personal safety and self-defense to folks of all genders (including LGBQT-specific classes), people with disabilities, and trauma survivors.

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Posted by Meg on 08/19 • (1) CommentsPermalink

Friday, August 16, 2013

Reflections on my painful yet empowering trip to the dentist

I went to the dentist yesterday and, like many people, I really detest going to the dentist.  Probably more so than any other type of doctor.  I always find it painful and uncomfortable.  I routinely put off my 6 month cleanings for exactly that reason.  Case in point: I only just went yesterday and technically I was due for a cleaning in March. 

In addition to the dentist, I really hate needles.  I can’t explain why but I just can’t stand getting shots, doing blood tests, or really even seeing needles on the TV.  As soon as that novacaine shot is put on the tray my breathing dramatically increases.  That shot is about as unfriendly-looking as a needle can get. 

I am very clear with my dentist though that I hate coming and I hate everything about the process, and she understands.  More importantly, she remembers this each and every time I have an appointment.  I’m not sure if there is a note in my file or if she has an amazing memory.  Regardless, what matters is that each time I am there she states that she knows I get nervous and anxious and she takes steps to address that.  She always checks to see if I have my inhaler (in case I get too anxious). She always informs me what she is going to do beforehand.  This alleviates some of my anxiety because I know I will never be surprised when she decides to do the shot. Lastly she always reminds me that I can raise my left hand at any point and that she will stop whatever is happening and check in with me.

Being in a dentist’s chair can be incredibly disempowering because of how it completely removes the ability to voice one’s concerns or pains. We are not able to pull away from the pain because of how it may create further pain or injury.  We are subject to the dentists’ will and ability to read our non-verbal cues.

This past appointment, I had to get a single cavity filled.  My dentist thought that it was shallow and that it could potentially be done without novacaine.  We talked about it and I agreed to try (remember that giant fear of needles?).  Turns out it was a horrible life decision because the cavity was deeper than she thought and it ended up causing a lot of pain.  Twice she stopped because I winced (but had not yet raised my left hand) and checked in with me.  Twice I said to keep going.  The third time I winced, we decided that I would have to have the novacaine shot after all and she apologized for being incorrect about the size of the cavity.  Trust me, the novacaine shot is important when getting cavities filled. 

Despite the pain and trauma that I experienced, I see this most recent visit as yet another reason to stay with my dentist.  She took the time to reflect on my fears, have a conversation, offer options, and incorporate what I wanted into the decision.  All in all, it was an empowering experience.  We made some bad choices but we made them together and we thought we were doing the best thing. 

Many survivors will avoid preventative and urgent health care.  Being in a doctor or dentist’s office can be very disempowering.  Changing into a robe that barely covers your body and having any type of medical exam can create feelings of vulnerability.  Many survivors have also had really negative responses from medical professionals.  Perhaps they were given poor treatment and it retriggered memories of the assault.  Perhaps they disclosed the assault and either weren’t believed or brushed off. There are a variety of reasons as to why survivors may not trust or feel comfortable in a medical office. 

It is not yet standard for doctors to provide time and understanding care to each patient. Instead they are required to see a certain number of patients each day to fill health insurance quotas.  Maybe it is just easier for them to ask the mandatory questions and address the acute problem at hand rather than delve any deeper. 

It is not yet standard for doctors or dentists to come up with safety rules (such as raising the left hand) to make sure that the patient always has a way to express feeling uncomfortable.  Our society teaches us that certain authority figures, such as doctors, must be respected and that their opinion and knowledge is much more important than ours.  Therefore it may be very difficult for people to verbally tell a doctor to stop what they are doing.  It may feel a bit easier to use a body cue, especially if one was discussed at the beginning of the appointment.

There isn’t even a standard for doctors to explain what they are doing beforehand.  There is a belief that not telling patients what might hurt or speedily going to an exam procedure is a better practice.  However, that is only incorporating what the provider thinks is best and completely ignoring the voice and wishes of the patient. 

There is very little, if any, information in medical school about sexual violence despite the prevalence in society.  Therefore people don’t have the information or framework unless they seek it out specifically.  The lack of patient and trauma focused care can make it very scary for survivors to access care.

I am happy that BARCC offers a training for medical providers that talks about the prevalence of sexual violence and the impacts that it can have on patients even years after the assault.  I am also happy that several of my friends are looking into medical school and have expressed that one of their reasons for doing so is the lack of trauma-focused care. 

Survivors deserve to have access to both comprehensive and compassionate health care.



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Posted by stacey on 08/16 • (1) CommentsPermalink

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Positive Community Responses: Giving Options Rather Than Limitations

Often, survivors of sexual violence and specific groups of people, such as women or LGBQT* folks, are told to limit their movement and interactions with the world and society in order to be safe.  For instance, they may be told to avoid certain neighborhoods or walking alone at night, lest they be targeted for violence.  Women are told to how to comport themselves at parties and bars,  and not to consume too much alcohol in order to avoid being drugged and/or assaulted.  Survivors, specifically, are encouraged to avoid spaces and places where their perpetrator may be and to avoid mutual friends.  These precautions are necessary, so the logic goes, because sexual violence is inevitable, and these reduce chances of future assaults, triggers, and other negative impacts. 

When people make these arguments, they say that these messages are well-intentioned and meant to protect.  But what are these messages really telling individuals? They tell us that movement and agency within society, communities, and neighborhoods is restricted.  Safety is not guaranteed for everyone in the community,  but rather is dependent on the number of safety measures that each person takes on their own. 

One of the messages that we, as anti-violence advocates, try to stress is that communities and community leaders should be continually working to make their spaces safer for members rather than recommending people limit their participation or movement through a community.  If the community takes the perspective that everyone deserves to have the same ownership and access to the community, and works to promote that message then it can be a more welcoming, friendly, and productive space.  It would also create the impression and standard that community members can and should be promoting safety, respect, and freedom within themselves. 

The past few weeks have been really encouraging as we have seen many different examples of communities trying to come together and provide support, encouragement, and safety. 

Justice 4 Families created the concept of a Night Out for Safety, Democracy, and Human Rights as an alternative to the annual National Night Out event.  The NNO is created and led by law enforcement agencies across the country and brings them together with community members and local resources/organizations.  The message behind that event is that if people are vigilant and watchful and report suspicious activity to the police then they can make their neighborhoods safer.   

Justice 4 Families Night Out for Safety, Democracy, and Human Rights has a very different framework.  They recognize that community members have more than eyes and ears that can be used to watch their neighbors.  They have hands, hearts, and minds.  The organization seeks to remind and encourage people that community violence prevention efforts have worked in the past and across many communities and that those individuals deserve to be recognized.  Violence prevention comes from building community, relationships, and trust and that by working together people can “build a sustained movement to move resources away from locking people up and toward lifting them up”.

A recent tragedy in South Boston justifiably caused a lot of unrest, fear, and anxiety among residents.  A typical response in situations like this is to warn women not to move throughout the community by themselves or at certain hours.  However, women (and all residents) have the right to go to work, meet friends, go to they gym, walk to the store, etc.  One company took a very different approach to the apprehension: they created Southie Shuttle.  The Shuttle brings people from their residences to and from train stations, restaurants, shopping centers, and a variety of Southie businesses.  The message being that people have the right to move around and live their lives and deserve to do that safely. 

The last thing I ran across in the past could weeks is the new Privacy and Safety on Facebook: A Guide for Survivors of Abuse.  The National Network to End Domestic Violence partnered with Facebook to address the concerns that many survivors have about online privacy and security.  Many times perpetrators will stalk people on Facebook either before or after an assault.  Oftentimes, a survivor knows who assaulted them and therefore they could be friends on Facebook already or have mutual friends.  NNEDV and FB created a guide that addressed the complications of online safety and the many instances where survivors cannot just ‘unfriend’ the person who assaulted them. 

The guide is separated into three ‘lines of defense’: managing friends, security settings and notifications, and being safe.  Facebook did not create anything new for survivors but rather did a great job of fleshing out the options that already exist, how to utilize them, and in what situations they would be useful.  For instance, they outlined what types of material can be kept private versus the type of material that an individual has no control over.  Since it isn’t always possible to ‘unfriend’ someone or if you are concerned about mutual friends, Facebook outlines how to put some individuals on a list that doesn’t get to see all or any of one’s posts or pictures.  It talks about the different settings that exist within the security and privacy functions and what their purpose is and how to make one’s account more secure.  The short guide ends with a description of legal services outside of Facebook and lets people know that while some material may not violate any Terms of Service of Facebook that a string of posts may constitute a case of online harassment and there could be some legal options.

I see these examples, and others like them, as proof that we are moving forward to be more inclusive and promote safety within our society and communities.  Every person can work to encourage respect, safety, and recognizing the rights of individuals both within and outside of their communities.



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Posted by stacey on 08/01 • (0) CommentsPermalink

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