Virtual Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Centering the Margin: Individual and Systemic Barriers (Week 4) Round-Up

In the absence of physical space to learn, create, and come together, the Women’s Center is taking Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) 2020 online. Each week during April, we will focus on a specific topic/theme as it relates to sexual violence awareness and prevention (see image below). Together, via out social media platforms like Facebook,Twitter, and Instagram, we can watch videos, read articles, and engage in other content for learning and skill-building.

SAAM 2020 Online

UMBC’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month online calendar includes weekly themes to help explore important concepts related to sexual violence awareness and prevention.

But, we get it… Maybe you’re not on Facebook. Maybe you needed to take a break from social media for the day because you’re practicing self-care. Or maybe, you’re still following us on all the things and still missed a pretty cool post. That’s okay! In addition to posting on social media throughout the month, at the end of each week, we’ll provide a round-up of all the content we shared along with some action items to consider doing.

We just wrapped up Week 4 of SAAM with lots of posts and content centered around the theme of “Centering the Margin: Individual and Systemic Barriers.” This meant the posts we shared took a deeper dive into how sexual assault prevention and response often pushes underrepresented and marginalized survivors to the margins. Through resource sharing and consciousness-raising, we hope that as individuals and communities we center these survivors and ensure prevention and response work that takes their specific needs into consideration.

So what did we explore? 

  1. What is cultural betrayal trauma theory? This theory by Dr. Jennifer Gomez is the result of her research focused on the effects of interpersonal trauma (e.g., physical, sexual, and emotional abuse) in diverse populations. Cultural betrayal trauma theory is the idea that some minorities develop what Gomez calls “(intra)cultural trust” – love, loyalty, attachment, connection, responsibility and solidarity with each other to protect themselves from a hostile society. Within-group violence, such as a black perpetrator harming a black victim, is a violation of this (intra)cultural trust. This violation is called a cultural betrayal and it can lead to diverse outcomes, including PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and internalized prejudice. You can learn more here.

    culturalbetrayal

    A visual representation of cultural betrayal trauma theory.

  2. Deepening Our Demands For Safety and Healing For Black Survivors of Sexual Violence: “For every Black woman who reports her rape, at least fifteen do not. Many cite a fear that they will not be believed by authorities, or, worse yet, subjected to further violence and criminalization” (Ritchie, Andrea 2017). Read more on Andrea Ritchie’s research and policy brief for “Deepening Our Demands For Safety and Healing For Black Survivors of Sexual Violence”

    expanding

    Image of the cover page for the “Deepening Our Demands For Safety and Healing For Black Survivors of Sexual Violence.”

  3. Intersectionality Matters with Kimberlé Crenshaw: #MeToo and Black Women: From Hip Hop to Hollywood: Listen to this powerful conversation addressing the historical violence of Black women and what movement building looks like that center’s Black women’s experiences
  4. Transgender Sexual Violence Survivors: A Self Help Guide to Healing and Understanding : “50% or more of all transgender and gender non-conforming people have experienced some form of sexual abuse, sometimes from many different people over many years.” This helpful guide explores techniques and exercises for healing, descriptions for LGBT services and how to develop a safety plan.

To see everything posted on our accounts last week, check out the hashtag #UMBCsaam over at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

Important Take-Aways:

Advocate for policies that combat inequality in education, health care, law enforcement and the judicial system that center the needs of underrepresented communities who experience trauma (to learn more, check out Nadia BenAissa’s URCAD Presentation)

→ Believe Survivors. No matter what identities they hold.

→ Challenge toxic and harmful cultural norms that impact survivors’ mental health. Learn how to support harm doers in being accountable by checking out this video on How to Support Harm Doers in Being Accountable.

Follow the Women’s Center on myUMBC,  Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for SAAM updates and information throughout the month of April. You can also stay up-to-date by following #UMBCsaam 

 


 

Throughout this time of distance learning, campus staff are still here and available for support. Do not hesitate to reach out for questions, concerns, or care.

On-Campus Resources Available for Virtual Support: 

 

To report a complaint of sexual misconduct or discrimination, please submit this online form

Intro to Hoodoo

Nandi is a Junior English Major and a student staff member in the Women’s Center.

Content Note: This blog is written from an African-American woman’s experience and somewhat limited knowledge of the subject.

Hoodoo is an African American folk magic tradition that is based in West African religious beliefs and practices. Much of the history of the practice has been documented through oral histories transcribed by Black historians.

Zora Neale Hurston’s article, “Hoodoo in America” (1931) recounted what she learned on a months long anthropological journey in New Orleans, which was one of the first of its kind. To stay in contact with the deities, traditions, and Africanisms that the slave trade and colonialism worked hard to systematically erase, slaves from West Africa merged a great deal of their traditions and mixed them in with the Christianity taught to them by their captors.

Zora Neale Hurston

Practitioners are called Hoodoos, spells are called roots (pronounced ruht), and the strength of the root is in the mojo of the hoodoo. Those who were born directly into the craft, like the famed Marie Laveau of New Orleans, are known to have the strongest mojo. Mojo, or interchangeably, juju, runs through families like a particular nose shape might. Those African-American communities that are more isolated, like the Gullah/Geechee people of South Carolina, are better able to pass on mojo and conjure traditions.

Hoodoo Spell Jars

In our community, intergenerational wealth is hard to come by, so the practices that get passed down through time act as a different sort of currency to support us through life. Knowledge of, and connections to, ancestors and folkloric spirits form a safety net of divinity that stretches everywhere that Black heads lay down to rest. The guardians and preservers of this wealth are mostly women, of course. Hoodoo and mojo aren’t restricted by gender in any way, but across cultures women are diligent stewards that pass down traditions as part of their assigned roles as caretakers.

The designation of “witchcraft” and the social, legal troubles that go along with practicing religions outside of Christianity (and really just the Christianity du jour) have consistently plagued non-men due to the compounding nature of Eurocentric prejudices. In short, we are seen as evil and scapegoated anyway, so to focus on us in this particular form of deviance is just the path of least resistance. But this is part burden, part responsibility, part honor because being the keepers of the keys to rituals that can harm, heal, protect, and cleanse is a more powerful position to hold than colonizing forces could ever fathom.

Witch-burning in the county Reinstein (Regenstein, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany) in 1555. Woodcut engraving after an original of a leaflet in the Collections of the Germanisches Nationalmusem in Nuremberg, published in 1881.

I decided to get into Hoodoo because of the mystic, spiritual motifs that have been ever-present in my family life. My mother and my aunties spitting on brooms, throwing salt over shoulders, never placing bags on the floor, and having premonition dreams seeped into my brain to make me want to go back to the source. The superstitions, belief in luck and omens, that I used to take for granted are everyday expressions of culture and our connections to a divine presence.

I decided on Hoodoo because my family is from the Carolinas, by way of slavery, and that’s where it was developed. The religion was created by and for displaced Africans and their descendents in the Americas. To practice Hoodoo without having any such connection is extremely inadvisable (play with slave spirits if you want to, but you probably won’t like the results 😐 ) .

Daughters of the Dust (1991)

As I connect with it I find comfort in the knowledge that I am held by my ancestors, always. I am more challenged by my beliefs than I have been in a long time. In entering a realm that I know very little about I constantly need to humble myself and proceed with humility to truly learn what I can offer. I am OK with making things up as I go along, too. I feel more autonomous, protected, and grounded. Most importantly, I feel like I deserve this because I was born into it.

Virtual Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Honoring + Believing Survivors’ Stories (Week 3) Round-Up

In the absence of physical space to learn, create, and come together, the Women’s Center is taking Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) 2020 online. Each week during April, we will focus on a specific topic/theme as it relates to sexual violence awareness and prevention (see image below). Together, via out social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we can watch videos, read articles, and engage in other content for learning and skill-building.

UMBC’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month online calendar includes weekly themes to help explore important concepts related to sexual violence awareness and prevention.

Were you taking a break from social media last week? That’s great! But it doesn’t mean you have to miss anything. In addition to posting on social media throughout the month, at the end of each week, we’ll provide a round-up of all the content we shared along with some action items to consider doing.

We just wrapped up week three of SAAM and spent the last several days discussing the importance of believing and honoring survivors stories through the following content:

1. Have you heard of the Clothesline Project?  Every year students, faculty, and staff  make t-shirts describing their experience with relationship violence and sexual assault. Typically these t-shirts would be hung shoulder-to-shoulder on a clothesline for public viewing, as if the survivors are there themselves, telling us their stories. The Clothesline Project gives voice to the experiences of survivors, victims, family, and friends who have been affected by violence. This year, we are creating a virtual Clothesline Project as a way of continuing to honor survivors stories.  Submissions can be found on our social media.

2. Take Back The Night

Take Back the Night is an annual event that brings awareness to sexual violence and creates public space for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories. It’s something many of us look forward to every year as a time for community, strength, and healing. It would have been held on April 16th.  Although we couldn’t come together in person, we still wanted to honor the stories of survivors at UMBC. Watch this video to learn more.

3. Chanel Miller’s book “Know My Name”

Chanel Miller’s book is a powerful memoir of strength and survival. Read her words and honor her story, and the stories of all survivors. 

Important Take-Away:

Listen to Survivors stories. Without judgement and without questions.

Believe Survivors. No matter what they were wearing, what they were drinking, or what they did afterwards. Believe them. 

Now that you’ve got some good items in your tool kit, what will you do with them? Here’s some Action Items:

  • Watch a movie or TV show centered on survivors’ experiences.  “The Hunting Ground” and “Unbelievable” are unflinching looks into the reality of the sexual assault crisis in the United States. “Nanette” and “Rape Jokes” are hilarious comedy specials that critique rape culture from a survivors perspective. 
  • Listen to Chanel Millers “Give a Damn Speech”. Delivered at the Glamour Woman of the Year awards, her speech is an important reminder to not just believe survivors, but give a damn about them. The speech can be found here.
  • Reflect on how you interact with the survivors in your life. Take what you’ve learned and implement it!

Follow the Women’s Center on myUMBCFacebook, Twitter, and Instagram for SAAM updates and information throughout the month of April. You can also stay up-to-date by following #UMBCsaam 


Throughout this time of distance learning, campus staff are still here and available for support. Do not hesitate to reach out for questions, concerns, or care.

On-Campus Resources Available for Virtual Support: 

To report a complaint of sexual misconduct or discrimination, please submit this online form

Virtual Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Deconstructing Rape Myths and Narratives (Week 2) Round-Up

In the absence of physical space to learn, create, and come together, the Women’s Center is taking Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) 2020 online. Each week during April, we will focus on a specific topic/theme as it relates to sexual violence awareness and prevention (see image below). Together, via out social media platforms like Facebook,Twitter, and Instagram, we can watch videos, read articles, and engage in other content for learning and skill-building.

UMBC’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month online calendar includes weekly themes to help explore important concepts related to sexual violence awareness and prevention. 

Have you been taking a break from social media? Missed a few posts? That’s okay! In addition to posting on social media throughout the month, at the end of each week, we’ll provide a round-up of all the content we shared along with some action items to consider doing.

We just wrapped up week two of SAAM and spent the last several days exploring rape narratives and myths through the following content:

1.What is rape culture? Rape culture is a sociological concept for a setting in which sexual violence is pervasive,  normalized, or encouraged due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. As exemplified in this image, tolerance of things at the bottom leads to excusing the behaviors at the top. 

This pyramid describes rape culture, with words on the bottom including catcalling, rape jokes, and stalking. The top includes rape, molestation, and and drugging. 

2. The prevalence of rape myths reinforces a very narrow definition of what sexual violence/rape is and how and when it happens. By deconstructing rape myths, we enable survivors to better access support and healing by ending a culture that blames victims. Learn more at Everyday Feminism

Want even more to read about this topic? Check out this list of books!

3. The phrase “Boys will be boys” is an “explain-away” that can work to reinforce rape culture (think back to that pyramid!). 

Here is a helpful article from the Good Men Project that further explains the importance of unlearning to use this phrase, but first, take a listen to one of Dua Lipa’s newest songs, “Boys Will Be Boys” which adresses sexual harassment some women (and also some LGBTQ folks) experience. What do you think?

4. What about implicit biases? So much of media is focused on “the perfect victim,” but this stereotype perpetuates dangerous myths that limit our understanding of the broad ways in which rape impacts people. Check out this video to learn more. 

What about LGBTQ survivors?  We live in a world where “heterosexuality” is default, and also where we are told that victims are women and rapists are men; however, in creating and perpetuating this rape myth, we are silencing a vast majority of survivor stories whose experiences reflect their LGBTQ identities. Read more in this vice article.

The Women’s Center’s pronoun pins!

Important Take-Away:

Remember the pyramid! Tolerance of sexist attitudes, rape jokes, and catcalling all contribute to perpetuating rape culture. 

Examine your implicit biases. There’s no such thing as a “perfect victim”, and far too many LGBTQ survivors are silenced by steryotypes and rape myths. 

Cut out language that promotes rape culture. Never say “Boys will be boys”! 

Boys will be held accountable for their actions!

Now that you’ve got some good readings in your tool kit, what will you do with them? Here’s some Action Items:

  • Reflect on any implicit biases you might not realize you have. Read some of the articles we posted, reflect on your own beliefs, and start a conversation. 
  • Share one of the articles above on your social media platforms. Ask your friends or family members if they’d be willing to engage in a conversation with you about one of the takeaways that stood out to you.
  • Learn more about how to cultivate a culture of consent. Here’s one more video on consent you can watch and share! Are you on twitter? Read more tweets written by Spring Up here, and feel free to use their proposed tweets – they gave their consent! 

Follow the Women’s Center on myUMBCFacebook, Twitter, and Instagram for SAAM updates and information throughout the month of April. You can also stay up-to-date by following #UMBCsaam 


Throughout this time of distance learning, campus staff are still here and available for support. Do not hesitate to reach out for questions, concerns, or care.

On-Campus Resources Available for Virtual Support: 

To report a complaint of sexual misconduct or discrimination, please submit this online form

Navigating the Women’s Restroom: An Open Letter

KayThis post is written by Kay, a student staff at the Women’s Center. Kay is a senior Psychology major.

This letter is addressed to a long slew of people. Who, you might ask? Well, that’s a loaded question, but in the interest of time, it’s primarily addressed to the cisgender women (women who identify with the gender that corresponds with their biological sex) who very clearly don’t want me in the women’s bathroom and are visibly uncomfortable or uncertain if I belong. 

These women have created so much space in women’s bathrooms for themselves that they have hindered how safe I feel. This letter is not addressed to all cis women, as many of you do accept me for how I present myself, and know that me entering the women’s bathroom shouldn’t be their concern. Even if this letter doesn’t apply directly to you, there is still a lot of important information here to make you a better ally and understand more of the position I and people similar to me are coming from.

elmo

I decided to write this letter because I’m tired. It’s exhausting navigating the world as a tall, black, androgynous nonbinary individual, even in a women’s bathroom. In many cases, my mere existence in a women’s bathroom is perceived as a danger to cisgender women. My identities, the essence of my being, are assumed as a threat through the racist, homophobic and transphobic lens of society. Many of my identities come into play in these situations, and they all work interconnectedly and simultaneously: I am black, and have many masculine physical traits; I have short hair, I’m 6’ tall, and I often don’t wear clothes that are associated with femininity. The black masculinity stereotype is portrayed in the media as aggressive and violent, so me being a black person who has identified with masculinity can cause discomfort, especially in a women’s bathroom (link). Queerness and transness also comes with many preconceived notions. Queer and trans folk have been typecasted as perverted and/or as sexual predators. But, cis women, try to remember that I just need to use the restroom and that’s all there is to it. Leave your preconceived notions at the door. 

When cis women gatekeep the women’s bathroom, many concepts regarding gender policing come up in discussions about bathrooms. Gender policing can be defined as the act of imposing or enforcing gender roles based on an individual’s perceived sex. This can be done overtly as well as covertly, whether it’s someone saying “I think you’re in the wrong bathroom directly to you” (yes, this has happened), or someone looking confused or worried (see GIF below). 

blink

Gender policing can turn violent and endanger people who defy gender norms. These actions and many others tell me and people like me that we are not welcome to exist outside of the gender binary and traditional heteronormative gender roles. This reinforces stereotypes and expectations of gender presentation. Nobody should have to subscribe to some sort of gender standard. Everyone should be able to express themselves without being judged or subjugated against.

Because of these constant negative experiences in the women’s bathroom, I’ve reached the point where running to a public restroom during a road trip, at the mall, even at the movies, becomes an emotional task. So many things go through my head before entering the bathroom:

Will I be stared at? 

Will people wonder why I’m entering the women’s bathroom? 

Will I face confrontation?

Should I ask my friend to go with me?

People often stare at me when I enter the women’s bathroom and wait for an open stall. Some are visibly uncomfortable with me who up until recently identified as a cisgender woman, and that makes me feel exposed and self-conscious of the way in which I present myself. 

One might say that you are all uncomfortable too, and I acknowledge that. I want you to feel as though the bathroom is a safe space for you. But the person who is keeping the bathroom from being a safe space for either of us is you and the stereotypes you have placed on me. 

593DFF3D-4843-4A67-9E05-4E730B2B498D

You are, in fact, exhibiting implicit biases based on how I present myself and the assumptions you make of me because of that (see my previous blog for more information regarding microaggressions). How can you be a victim based on the stereotypes you decided to put on me?

In no way do I want anyone to be uncomfortable in the bathroom they decide to go into. I definitely don’t enjoy the discomfort of a bathroom not being presented as a safe space. There are many times I feel as though the women’s bathroom is not for me anymore. Though I was assigned female at birth I don’t identify as a woman. I identify as nonbinary, and for me I don’t feel like I belong in either a woman’s or men’s restroom. But sometimes there’s no other choice. Sometimes the single-stalled all-gender restrooms are dirty, far away, occupied or non-existent. Multi-stall all gender bathrooms are not very common. Even on the UMBC campus, all gender multi-stall bathrooms weren’t available until 2019! Outside of college campuses, they become even less common.

So, to all the people this may apply to, whether you’ve experienced similar instances to me or are one of the many who give people the side eye when they enter the bathroom, I hope you are able to at the very least understand the two concepts listed below:

  1. My gender identity is none of your concern. There’s no need for you to figure me out. The ways in which I identify shouldn’t matter; no matter how I identify, it doesn’t change the fact that the most comfortable option for me at the time is the women’s bathroom. I’m just using the loo like the rest of you.
  2. If you are uncomfortable with me, ask yourself why. Your gender policing is showing. Why do I cause you to be uncomfortable? Do those reasons relate to assumptions about me based on how I look and the ways in which I express my identities?

Further Resources:

Article on Black Masculinity Portrayals

Gender Policing

Fast Facts about Trans Bathroom Access

Inclusive Access of All Gender Restrooms at UMBC

UMBC All Gender Restroom Map

Virtual Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Affirmative Consent (Week 1) Round-Up

In the absence of physical space to learn, create, and come together, the Women’s Center is taking Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) 2020 online. Each week during April, we will focus on a specific topic/theme as it relates to sexual violence awareness and prevention (see image below). Together, via out social media platforms like Facebook,Twitter, and Instagram, we can watch videos, read articles, and engage in other content for learning and skill-building.

SAAM 2020 Online

UMBC’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month online calendar includes weekly themes to help explore important concepts related to sexual violence awareness and prevention. 

But, we get it… Maybe you’re not on Facebook. Maybe you needed to take a break from social media for the day because you’re practicing self-care. Or maybe, you’re still following us on all the things and still missed a pretty cool post. That’s okay! In addition to posting on social media throughout the month, at the end of each week, we’ll provide a round-up of all the content we shared along with some action items to consider doing.

We just wrapped up week one of SAAM and spent the last several days exploring affirmative consent through the following content:

  1. “What is affirmative consent?”” brought to you by Retriever Courage and UMBC’s Policy on Prohibited Sexual Misconduct, Interpersonal Violence, and Other Related Misconduct.

    RetrieverCourage_Consent-01

    Image is part of the Retriever Courage poster campaign. This poster focuses on what consent is and includes a list of what consent is and isn’t. 

  2. Affirmative consent is all about saying or confirming an enthusiastic yes because YOU WANT TO… not because you feel like you have to say yes. And, being able to say yes means learning how to say no. We can learn how to create boundaries and say “no” way before we are even thinking about consent in terms of sex and it starts with educating little kids. Everyday Feminism has a great graphic to illustrate this point.

    kidsconsent

    Image Reads: Children are told that adults are owed their attention and affection. When that idea is internalized it can be difficult to accept that no one is owed physical contact or emotional safety.

  3. Knowing what you want and don’t want is a key part of being able to participate in affirmative consent. Reviewing and completing a sexual inventory can be a great way for you to identify what you want and don’t want as a first step in being able to communicate your needs. Check out this  Yes, No, Maybe list from Scarleteen.
  4. In this time of distance learning, Zoom meetings, and FaceTime as some of our only means of socially connecting with classmates, co-workers, family and friends, it’s even more important to be thinking about digital consent and practicing clear communication. Learn more here. 

Important Take-Away:

Affirmative consent is not just about the presence of a no… it is the presence of an enthusiastic yes!

Remember FRIES.… consent is: Freely given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic and Specific.

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Now that you’ve got some good readings in your tool kit, what will you do with them? Here’s some Action Items:

  • Incorporate at least one way you can ask or give consent into your daily life, whether that’s asking to hug someone if you haven’t asked in the past, talking to your friends about tagging you on social media only after they’ve asked you, or offering an alternative way for a young person in your life to show gratitude that isn’t connected to physical touch or affection.
  • Share one of the articles above on your social media platforms. Ask your friends or family member if they’d be willing to engage in a conversation with you about one of the takeaways that stood out to you.
  • Like tea? Then here’s one more video on consent you can watch and share!

 

Follow the Women’s Center on myUMBC,  Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for SAAM updates and information throughout the month of April. You can also stay up-to-date by following #UMBCsaam 

 


 

Throughout this time of distance learning, campus staff are still here and available for support. Do not hesitate to reach out for questions, concerns, or care.

On-Campus Resources Available for Virtual Support: 

 

To report a complaint of sexual misconduct or discrimination, please submit this online form