Thursday, August 27, 2009

The road from our view

This week on the road proved to be very interesting. It is always an honor to head out into the world and do the work we do. But being the sarcastic yet sentimental gals we are we captured a few of our favorite moments to share with you. In a perfect world we would travel the nation as one big sexually empowered posse but until Kel and I get the mac daddy tour bus that we dream about or I fulfill my desire to own an RV we will have to keep you posted via the blog.

So, it all started when we got in our rental car and our good friends at Avis apparently got the party started without us. No hard feelings folks we were working that day.

Onto lunch with Aunt Vicky at the Farm Basket in Lynchburg.

One of our favorite things to do as we travel is to support local restaurants, sampling authentic regional cuisine and meeting the townies. On a perfect day we combine this experience with friends and/or family. As we rolled through Virginia we were so fortunate to have lunch with my awesome aunt and cousin at an amazing Lynchburg establishment. In addition to great food, there are several boutiques at The Farm Basket where any passionate shopper could easily do some serious damage. I think we could cure some economic woes if we sent more people through this lovely spot.

Kelly and I are really into signs. I take my fortune cookies seriously and we look for meaning all around us. So you can imagine how funny we thought this sign was...

Restrooms are not a complementary service? Who knew? Can you imagine what it was like before they decided to move towards "a superior customer experience"?

While the cases of beer, wonderful lunches and signs that make no sense amuse and entertain us they are just the sprinkles on our sundae. Because of the three campuses we visited this week we were humbled by stories of courage, excited by the many commitments to address violence and touched by the sincerity of others. Every stop on this fall tour and the preceding tours is fueled by the men and women we meet; the students, the faculty and staff who believe that change is possible and together we can reduce sexual violence. Thank you for making us so rich with what matters.



Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Great Greek Debate

Most of you know how tiring conferences can be. You get up really early, gather, listen, learn, network, meet all sorts of new people, break for lunch, gather again, listen some more, break for happy hour but it’s not truly a break because you’re networking your tail off. Then you realize its midnight and you just want to sleep. Your brain stopped working hours ago and your body is ready to finally give in. This past year we were at a conference and approaching the midnight hour when we hopped on the elevator to head back to our room and turn in for the night. There was an older woman standing next to us on the elevator and she looked at the conference name lanyard hanging around my neck and she asked what it meant. I told her the full name of the conference and she just stared at me so I explained that Becca and I were speakers and we work primarily with college students to help end sexual violence. I was hopeful that the conversation would end there. Not a chance. She asked what types of student groups we work with and I rattled off several different organizations. She said, “It’s good that you talk to Frat boys because that’s really the reason for date rape.”

Rrrrrk, needle scratch the record. Hold the phone Ramone. What did she just say? As soon as the hard-hitting words left the woman’s lips I woke up, Becca and I looked at one another, took a deep breath and consciously fought going into super defense mode. It was late and we were exhausted, but here we go. We could have ignored her, politely smiled and waited for our floor to light up, but that would be the easy way out and even though we were dog tired, we are impassioned activists. Avoiding her comment just would not feel right and so the heated conversation with the unknown woman in the elevator began.

I quickly fired back by blurting out the number of tremendous leaders that are Greek, some of them United States President’s for crying out loud. Becca cut in and began rattling off financial details about the tremendous good deeds of Greek organization’s noting their philanthropic contributions.

Okay, so that conversation was ALL in my head, but you know sometimes the conversations I have in my head are the best kind because they usually have a great sound track playing in the background, the perfect dose of dramatic flare and they always end with me feeling brilliant and victorious. Enough about my flawlessly twisted thoughts, lets get back to the elevator commotion.

For a split second, I thought it would be a good idea to reply to this woman by saying, “You are wrong and you just don’t understand because you’re not Greek lady,” then walk off and possibly talk a little trash about her with my home girl B.T. along the way. Yes, that would be easy and maybe even fun but that’s not necessarily the right thing to do and that’s not what we did. Becca and I took turns arm wrestling her instead. Okay, that did not happen either but just for the record, I totally would have won.

What really happened is we both politely smiled at the woman in the elevator and said something like this, “I’m sorry you feel that way. We have worked with many Greek men and women on campuses all over the country that are committed to preventing sexual assault and speaking out against violence. I can see why you might feel that way though, because unfortunately opinions are often made about all Fraternity men and Sorority women based on several isolated incidents.” The woman smiled at us both and said, “Good for you. Thank you.”

Nice. Very nice.

But let’s pretend the conversation in my head was really our reaction. What then? If we responded to her comment in an overly defensive manner we would have missed out on a huge opportunity to educate. Moments like this do not have to turn into a heated confrontation or the great Greek debate, especially not in such a tiny confined space. When people blatantly share their negative personal assumptions about our values, character and actions, we might be inclined to respond defensively and point out their flaws, but if we do, we are missing out on a tremendous opportunity to remove the unfortunate stigma associated with being Greek.

Greek men and women are doing lots of good throughout the land. We get the chance to witness their character, values and achievements on the regular and we could not be more proud of our brothers and sisters or more proud to be Greek.

Here’s just one example of what we see and are sometimes lucky enough to be a part of --

The sisters of Delta Gamma at Southern Methodist University host a sexual assault awareness program for all incoming students on their campus each year through the Delta Gamma Foundation Lectureship in Values and Ethics. We are extremely proud and honored to have been a part of this program for the third year in a row. Thank you to the women of Delta Gamma for all you do, not just on the first day of class but throughout the year to help make your campus a safer place for everyone.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


We had a wonderful time at Sweet Briar College, as always in the oh-so-adorable Sweet Briar, Virginia. The students at SBC this year are absolutely fantastic! It was a great gig and Let's Talk About "IT" Some More after the program was just the right closing to our night on campus as it was filled with lots of important questions, comments and an open, honest and engaging dialogue. That's what I'm talk'n about! Thank you ladies for jumping right in. We are so very proud that the lovely women of Sweet Briar are confident, empowered and committed to making their sexual health a priority.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Class of 2013

We spent the afternoon in Farmville, VA and got a chance to meet the 1,000 plus members of the class of 2013 at Longwood University. Above are a few of the young ladies who trekked through the rain with us to talk about “IT’ some more after our program. Getting a chance to talk with students one-on-one and in small groups is one of the most rewarding parts of our job. Thank you to the folks of Longwood for this wonderful opportunity and for being fan-freaking-tastic!

As we were flying to Virginia last night Becca and I were laughing (through the tears) about the fact that we have been friends longer than the bright young minds of the class of 2013 have been alive. Holy Golden Girls! How did that happen? I am in touch with the fact that I’m getting older but to think about it like that, well it’s just plain freaky. You know what else is weird? The class of 2013 has never been “Saved by the Bell”. Zack Morris and I are officially depressed.
And now for the official list to help put the class of 2013 into perspective--
The Beloit College Mindset List for the
Class of 2013
Most students entering college for the first time this fall were born in 1991.
For these students, Martha Graham, Pan American Airways, Michael Landon, Dr. Seuss, Miles Davis, The Dallas Times Herald, Gene Roddenberry, and Freddie Mercury have always been dead.
Dan Rostenkowski, Jack Kevorkian, and Mike Tyson have always been felons.
The Green Giant has always been Shrek, not the big guy picking vegetables.
They have never used a card catalog to find a book.
Margaret Thatcher has always been a former prime minister.
Salsa has always outsold ketchup.
Earvin "Magic" Johnson has always been HIV-positive.
Tattoos have always been very chic and highly visible.
They have been preparing for the arrival of HDTV all their lives.
Rap music has always been main stream.
Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream has always been a flavor choice.
Someone has always been building something taller than the Willis (née Sears) Tower in Chicago.
The KGB has never officially existed.
Text has always been hyper.
They never saw the “Scud Stud” (but there have always been electromagnetic stud finders.)
Babies have always had a Social Security Number.
They have never had to “shake down” an oral thermometer.
Bungee jumping has always been socially acceptable.
They have never understood the meaning of R.S.V.P.
American students have always lived anxiously with high-stakes educational testing.
Except for the present incumbent, the President has never inhaled.
State abbreviations in addresses have never had periods.
The European Union has always existed.
McDonald's has always been serving Happy Meals in China.
Condoms have always been advertised on television.
Cable television systems have always offered telephone service and vice versa.
Christopher Columbus has always been getting a bad rap.
The American health care system has always been in critical condition.
Bobby Cox has always managed the Atlanta Braves.
Desperate smokers have always been able to turn to Nicoderm skin patches.
There has always been a Cartoon Network.
The nation’s key economic indicator has always been the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Their folks could always reach for a Zoloft.
They have always been able to read books on an electronic screen.
Women have always outnumbered men in college.
We have always watched wars, coups, and police arrests unfold on television in real time.
Amateur radio operators have never needed to know Morse code.
Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Latvia, Georgia, Lithuania, and Estonia have always been independent nations.
It's always been official: President Zachary Taylor did not die of arsenic poisoning.
Madonna’s perspective on Sex has always been well documented.
Phil Jackson has always been coaching championship basketball.
Ozzy Osbourne has always been coming back.
Kevin Costner has always been Dancing with Wolves, especially on cable.
There have always been flat screen televisions.
They have always eaten Berry Berry Kix.
Disney’s Fantasia has always been available on video, and It’s a Wonderful Life has always been on Moscow television.
Smokers have never been promoted as an economic force that deserves respect.
Elite American colleges have never been able to fix the price of tuition.
Nobody has been able to make a deposit in the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).
Everyone has always known what the evening news was before the Evening News came on.
Britney Spears has always been heard on classic rock stations.
They have never been Saved by the Bell
Someone has always been asking: “Was Iraq worth a war?”
Most communities have always had a mega-church.
Natalie Cole has always been singing with her father.
The status of gays in the military has always been a topic of political debate.
Elizabeth Taylor has always reeked of White Diamonds.
There has always been a Planet Hollywood.
For one reason or another, California’s future has always been in doubt.
Agent Starling has always feared the Silence of the Lambs.
“Womyn” and “waitperson” have always been in the dictionary.
Members of Congress have always had to keep their checkbooks balanced since the closing of the House Bank.
There has always been a computer in the Oval Office.
CDs have never been sold in cardboard packaging.
Avon has always been “calling” in a catalog.
NATO has always been looking for a role.
Two Koreas have always been members of the UN.
Official racial classifications in South Africa have always been outlawed.
The NBC Today Show has always been seen on weekends.
Vice presidents of the United States have always had real power.
Conflict in Northern Ireland has always been slowly winding down.
Migration of once independent media like radio, TV, videos and compact discs to the computer has never amazed them.
Nobody has ever responded to “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”
Congress could never give itself a mid-term raise.
There has always been blue Jell-O.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Healing Power of Yoga

by Sabrina Sadler, Social Outreach Intern
Yoga group for Sexual Assault Survivors on college campuses! This group started a year ago at CSU, Sacramento with the continuation each semester. Check out your local college to see if they have a healing group for survivors or maybe you can help start one.
Sacramento State’s Student Health Center will host four sessions of “Yoga and Healing for Sexual Assault,” an innovative, evidenced-based program for sexual assault survivors. The two-part program consists of a yoga session led by respected instructor Tamara Lee Standard, and a group discussion focused on healing for sexual assault survivors led by Cathy Connors. Connors, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who has worked in the mental health field for over 15 years…

“We’ve received student interest before the semester started,” says Jessica Heskin, coordinator of Violence and Sexual Assault Support Services at the Health Center. Heskin is hopeful that the sessions will give survivors immediate tools to reduce anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder symptoms. “We want the students to leave that day with something that may help them.”

According to Heskin, “Yoga helps decrease symptoms by utilizing relaxation techniques. The memory of the trauma is imprinted on the human body; yoga helps reconnect the survivor with their physical self, thereby reestablishing a friendly/positive relationship with one’s body.” A number of research studies have shown that yoga in conjunction with more traditional therapy decreases Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms in veterans. Similar services have begun to be provided at rape crisis centers in the country. These sessions would be a first at Sacramento State…

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Holla Back

Tired of cat-calling? Isn’t everyone?

Well now you can voice your frustrations and personal encounters with degrading harassment on online forums.

Groups of people from various metropolitan areas have created forums entitled, “Holla Back,” followed by the city the forum focuses on.

It’s great that people finally have a community they can voice their own frustrations about cat-calling on, because previously we would have been forced to just brush those nasty encounters aside. Now we can have a proper discourse, and maybe even poke a little fun, at the vulgar name calling. Because we all know that talking about issues that affect us are the way we initiate change.

The entries evoke feelings of sadness and sometimes laughter. The funniest stories showcase ridiculous pick-up lines. The saddest entries point to downfalls in human decency.
Some users even take pictures of the cat-callers; putting a face on harassment and making their situations come to life. This also seems to make each city’s residents more accountable, and conscientious of their words and actions.

Check out the "Holla Back DC," forum, the one that started it all. From here you can browse the links for the other “Holla Back,” forums for cities like Chicago and Toronto . Find the city closest to you, or start your own, and holla back at those hollering at you. Because you ain’t no holla back girl.

Crime Reporting on Cruise Ships

by Sabrina Sadler, Social Outreach Intern

Have you ever gone on a cruise or thought about going on a cruise? Did you ever think of crimes happening on a cruise?

I came across the following article that introduces The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act. This bill would “initiate a new Website, with reports updated quarterly on the number of crimes, their nature, and whether or not passengers or crew members are implicated. Each cruise line must also link to the crime statistics page from its Website.”

The second part of this article that I found to be important was that sexual assault occurs on these cruise ships, thankfully the law requires that these vessels carry rape investigation kits and hire or train an employee to preserve the evidence. It is unfortunate that cruise ships would even need these precautions but I am pleased to see that it is the law.

The truth is no one wants to think of being sexually assaulted, robbed, or any other crime while on vacation. But the reality is, it could happen and it does happen. I am glad to see that this bill is being put into action and with my highest hopes, I hope that it passes and cruise vessels are held accountable for the crime taking place on their vessels.

Bill would tighten crime reporting for cruises
Legislation would force lines to report on rapes, robberies, other crimes
updated 8:53 a.m. PT, Fri., July 31, 2009

MIAMI - Vacationers shopping for a cruise might soon have more things to consider than prices and itineraries. They may be able to compare the number of passengers allegedly raped, robbed or lost at sea under a bill approved Thursday for a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure committee's unanimous approval of the measure, following a Senate committee's passage, clears the way for a vote in both chambers shortly after Congress returns from its August recess.

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act tightens restrictions on an industry that has long evaded much scrutiny — in part because of the complexity of international maritime law.
The industry initially opposed the bill, but the Cruise Lines International Association changed its stance. CLIA says most companies already follow many of the provisions — like sharing crime data with the Coast Guard — and some other components are already addressed under existing federal law.

"Millions of passengers each year enjoy a safe cruise vacation, and while serious incidents are rare, even one incident is one too many," CLIA said in a written statement. "As an industry, we are fully committed to the safety and security of our passengers and crew."

Because the industry has refused to release data to the public, the actual crime rate aboard the vessels is unknown but seems low. According to a U.S. House of Representatives memo from 2007, cruise industry executives testified that 178 people in North America reported sexual assaults from 2003 to 2005, and 24 passengers went missing. Compared with about 26 million passengers sailing during the period, those figures amount to crime rates far lower than the national average.

Because sexual assault is among the most frequently alleged crimes — and crew members are often alleged to be the perpetrators — the law requires that each ship carry rape investigation kits and hire or train an employee to preserve evidence.

Ships must also carry antiretroviral medicine to help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, upgrade video surveillance and install peep holes, security latches and time-sensitive locks on all guest rooms.

Bill sponsors Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and California Rep. Doris Matsui, both Democrats, started working on the issue after constituents shared stories of alleged rape, grief, fear and losing loved ones at sea.

Ken Carver, who brought the issue to Kerry's attention, started a nonprofit called International Cruise Victims after his daughter disappeared on a ship in 2005. He says he was lied to and stonewalled as he tried to learn what happened to her. Other passengers have related similar stories in testimony before Congress.

"In the past three years, I have met far too many American families which have incurred tragedy during what ought to be a relaxing vacation," Matsui said. "For far too long, American families have unknowingly been at risk on cruise ships."

The Secretary of Transportation would initiate a new Web site under the bill with reports updated quarterly on the number of crimes, their nature and whether passengers or crew members are implicated. Each cruise line must also link to the crime statistics page from its Web site.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

New York Times article, Women at Risk by Bob Herbert

After reading this article I kept returning to it. I found myself frustrated and frightened. Most of all I wish I had all the answers. Even some of the answers. Read, reflect and let us know what you think.

August 8, 2009

Op-Ed Columnist
Women at Risk

“I actually look good. I dress good, am clean-shaven, bathe, touch of cologne — yet 30 million women rejected me,” wrote George Sodini in a blog that he kept while preparing for this week’s shooting in a Pennsylvania gym in which he killed three women, wounded nine others and then killed himself.

We’ve seen this tragic ritual so often that it has the feel of a formula. A guy is filled with a seething rage toward women and has easy access to guns. The result: mass slaughter.Back in the fall of 2006, a fiend invaded an Amish schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania, separated the girls from the boys, and then shot 10 of the girls, killing five. I wrote, at the time, that there would have been thunderous outrage if someone had separated potential victims by race or religion and then shot, say, only the blacks, or only the whites, or only the Jews. But if you shoot only the girls or only the women — not so much of an uproar.

According to police accounts, Sodini walked into a dance-aerobics class of about 30 women who were being led by a pregnant instructor. He turned out the lights and opened fire. The instructor was among the wounded. We have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that the barbaric treatment of women and girls has come to be more or less expected. We profess to being shocked at one or another of these outlandish crimes, but the shock wears off quickly in an environment in which the rape, murder and humiliation of females is not only a staple of the news, but an important cornerstone of the nation’s entertainment.The mainstream culture is filled with the most gruesome forms of misogyny, and pornography is now a multibillion-dollar industry — much of it controlled by mainstream U.S. corporations. One of the striking things about mass killings in the U.S. is how consistently we find that the killers were riddled with shame and sexual humiliation, which they inevitably blamed on women and girls.

The answer to their feelings of inadequacy was to get their hands on a gun (or guns) and begin blowing people away.What was unusual about Sodini was how explicit he was in his blog about his personal shame and his hatred of women. “Why do this?” he asked. “To young girls? Just read below.” In his gruesome, monthslong rant, he managed to say, among other things: “It seems many teenage girls have sex frequently. One 16 year old does it usually three times a day with her boyfriend. So, err, after a month of that, this little [expletive] has had more sex than ME in my LIFE, and I am 48.

One more reason.”I was reminded of the Virginia Tech gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people in a rampage at the university in 2007. While Cho shot males as well as females, he was reported to have previously stalked female classmates and to have leaned under tables to take inappropriate photos of women. A former roommate said Cho once claimed to have seen “promiscuity” when he looked into the eyes of a woman on campus.Soon after the Virginia Tech slayings, I interviewed Dr. James Gilligan, who spent many years studying violence as a prison psychiatrist in Massachusetts and as a professor at Harvard and N.Y.U. “What I’ve concluded from decades of working with murderers and rapists and every kind of violent criminal,” he said, “is that an underlying factor that is virtually always present to one degree or another is a feeling that one has to prove one’s manhood, and that the way to do that, to gain the respect that has been lost, is to commit a violent act.”

Life in the United States is mind-bogglingly violent. But we should take particular notice of the staggering amounts of violence brought down on the nation’s women and girls each and every day for no other reason than who they are. They are attacked because they are female. A girl or woman somewhere in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every couple of minutes or so. The number of seriously battered wives and girlfriends is far beyond the ability of any agency to count.There were so many sexual attacks against women in the armed forces that the Defense Department had to revise its entire approach to the problem.We would become much more sane, much healthier, as a society if we could bring ourselves to acknowledge that misogyny is a serious and pervasive problem, and that the twisted way so many men feel about women, combined with the absurdly easy availability of guns, is a toxic mix of the most tragic proportions.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Are you interested in making a difference while gaining professional experience and college credit? Unite for Change is seeking an extraordinary intern to join our sexually empowered posse this fall.

Social Outreach Intern

Ideal candidate will be a self starter who has an interest in developing a strong portfolio. This is not a copy’s and filing job, this is a chance to get hands on experience in contributing to a world without violence. Qualified applicant must be proficient in web-based social networking, have strong communication skills both oral and written and a background in social change and/ or leadership and current involvement in student organization(s).

Prefer applicants who are passionate about sexual assault awareness and prevention, sexual empowerment and sexual equality. Only sexually empowered individuals or those with the desire to become so need apply.This is a part-time telecommute position. We will work with the student and university to ensure college credit is provided for the internship.

Responsibilities include, but not limited to the following:

- Contribute articles and submissions for blog, e-news and web-sites

- Web-based social networking (such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg and other emerging trends)
- Communicate and work with various partners such as national anti-violence organizations and campus awareness programs

- Assist in the reorganization and re-launch of Unite for Change

- Assist in implementation of Unite for Change student board

Please submit your resume and cover letter to We are looking to fill this position by September.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A Little Piece of Me

by Sabrina Sadler, Social Outreach Intern

I am a Survivor of Sexual Assault.

I have had the opportunity to share my story with my friends, my family, my fellow collegians, and complete strangers. During this period of my healing process my case was put on hold.

Recently my case got a Lead.

Exciting right? But what does this mean for me?

I believe that one of the most healing things to do as a survivor of sexual assault is to share your story, whether it is with one person or many. Each one of us, who is a survivor of sexual assault, holds a different story within, waiting to be told, and it is these stories that tie us together and give us strength.

Since my case has recently been re-opened, I am faced with the chance of my case going to trial, which means if I want the best case for myself, I can no longer openly talk about my story until it is closed.

So in the mean time I wait…and wait…and wait.

Cases don’t come and go as fast as they do on ‘Law and Order’, but I wish they did.

Our justice system is a timely process and everything has to be done right, in order for my case to be strong.

I will never forget the day I got the phone call from my detective saying we have a lead. I was caught completely off guard and feeling every emotion possible…

Relief. Sadness. Scared. Happy. Terrified.

I couldn’t believe this day had finally come.

Now that it has been a little while since that phone call, I continue to wait for my case to take its course, but everyday I contemplate if the silence is worth keeping.

I look at Kelly and Becca, and think how amazing it is for them to travel to various colleges and share their story, the story of Kelly’s Sexual Assault and the story of Kelly and Becca’s Friendship.

For those of you who have seen the 2020 episode of the DeAnza College Gang Rape. I’m thankful for Lauren, Chief, and April to share the story, and speak on behalf of the Survivor.

It is very empowering to share such a personal and tragic story with others. Sexual Assault is about having power and control. As a survivor we try to gain that power and control back.

In my situation, I sometimes feel the Justice system takes my power and control away from me, once again.

I do have the choice to speak or not to speak, but that is weighed on the fact of having a strong or weak case.