RVAM: Self-Guided Learning Week 2 (Oct 13)

Relationship Violence Awareness Month (RVAM) brings people together to create and generate discussion and skill-building on how to prevent relationship violence in our schools, workplaces, and communities, Since most of our campus remains learning and working remotely, we won’t be able to physically come together this October to do this critical work in person… but it doesn’t mean that learning is cancelled!

The Women’s Center is creating weekly postings to help guide your self-learning that we’ll share with you each week in October. We’ve arrived at week 2!  Below is a short list of relevant webinars or events, podcasts or blogs, and on and off-campus resources dedicated to cultivating awareness about relationship violence, posting your skills and knowledge around the intersecting issues, and increasing access to important resources.

While some of the learning content we’re sharing is all-encompassing, we’re also narrowing down on  few key themes this year to include: The Covid-Crossings of Relationship Violence, Relationship Violence’s Matrix of Oppression, and Un/Healthy Relationships for Young Adults. Through self-guided learning, you can dig deeper by listening to a podcast, reading a blog, attending a webinar and more. 

We’ll also be sharing this content on social media so let us know what you’re learning or what questions you have in the comments! 

  • Brave Space Forums with the Women’s Center discuss intersectional feminist topics. This year, our Brave Space Forums will have topics under the theme “COVID-19 Crossings”. Join us this week, Thursday, October 15th at 4pm for our Brave Space Forum: Gender in a Pandemic. We will be discussing the ways the pandemic has reshaped, interrogated, and made us reflect on gender roles. Click here to RSVP for this week’s event!
  • Last week we shared the Power and Control Wheel, but have you heard of the Equality Wheel? The Equality Wheel offers a view of a healthy relationship that is based on equality and nonviolence. It is applicable to all forms of relationships; with friends, dating partners, intimate partners, life partners, or family members. One of the misconceptions about relationship violence is that it is usually discussed in the context of heterosexual relationships. However, this is far beyond the truth. Intimate partner violence is also an issue in the LGBTQ+ community. Because of this misconception, it was challenging to find an equality wheel that was not explicitly emphasizing one sole gender identity 
  • TurnAround is an off-campus resource that provides services for all survivors of relationship violence. They also promote resources and information that bring awareness for intimate-partner and sexual violence. Follow TurnAround on their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter account, where they provide daily posts dedicated to bringing awareness regarding sexual violence, intimate partner violence, and human trafficking. For more information about their services, click here.

RVAM: Self-Guided Learning Week 1 (Oct 6)

Relationship Violence Awareness Month (RVAM) brings people together to create and generate discussion and skill-building on how to prevent relationship violence in our schools, workplaces, and communities, Since most of our campus remains learning and working remotely, we won’t be able to physically come together this October to do this critical work in person… but it doesn’t mean that learning is cancelled!

The Women’s Center is creating weekly postings to help guide your self-learning that we’ll share with you each week in October. Below is a short list of relevant webinars or events, podcasts or blogs, and on and off-campus resources dedicated to cultivating awareness about relationship violence, posting your skills and knowledge around the intersecting issues, and increasing access to important resources.

While some of the learning content we’re sharing is all-encompassing, we’re also narrowing down on  few key themes this year to include: The Covid-Crossings of Relationship Violence, Relationship Violence’s Matrix of Oppression, and Un/Healthy Relationships for Young Adults. Through self-guided learning, you can dig deeper by listening to a podcast, reading a blog, attending a webinar and more. 

We’ll also be sharing this content on social media so let us know what you’re learning or what questions you have in the comments! 

The Power and Control Wheel
  • Here is an article called “Dealing with Teen Dating Violence” that explains who is affected by teen dating violence, how to offer help, and why survivors sometimes do not ask for help.
  • We Believe You is a student-led activist, advocacy, and support organization for survivors and allies of sexual and interpersonal violence. They seek to bring about campus-wide awareness of social issues surrounding power-based violence and intersecting forms of oppression. Check out this link for more information about the survivors only discussion group, and this link for information about the general body meetings, which are open to everyone!

So, your fave has been accused of sexual assault.

 Kaitlyn Kylus (She/Her)

Kaitlyn is a senior Social Work major and is a student staff member at the Women’s Center

Content Warning: Sexual Assault 

A note on the word survivor: I will be using the words “survivor”, “victim”, and “accuser” interchangeably in this post. It is always up to the person affected to decide how they feel most comfortable identifying themselves, and the words they chose to describe themselves should always be respected.

So, your fave has been accused of sexual assault. 

You know the drill by now. Your favorite celebrity’s name is trending on Twitter. You hold your breath as you click on the topic. Did they say something racist? Transphobic? Is it just their birthday? Yet again, you are greeted with the all too familiar tweet,

 “[insert celebrities name here] accused of sexual assault.” 

So, let’s talk about it. What’s the right thing to do when your favorite celebrity is accused? Let’s examine what I personally have seen as the three most common reactions.

While this is upsetting for anyone to hear about, it can be especially heartbreaking for survivors of sexual violence. Many survivors already have trouble trusting anyone, so knowing that even the actors/musicians/comedians we like are actually perpetrators makes even just enjoying different forms of media feel unsafe. What if we’re unknowingly supporting someone heinous? And, seeing the world respond to the accusations can often reflect what happened in a survivor’s own life. 

1) You don’t believe the accuser.

As the vice-president of We Believe You (a student org that supports survivors and advocates for an end to rape culture), it isn’t surprising that my view of this position is a negative one. I know that it is painful to acknowledge that someone you loved has done something awful. The truth is, you can never truly know a public figure. What you see is what they want you to see, a carefully curated version of themselves. It’s impossible to know what they do behind closed doors. So, the argument that they would never do something like this is a flawed one. 

If you think that people falsely accuse celebrities for selfish motives, to get ahead in their careers, or get social media attention, think a little harder. Can you name the women who accused Louis C.K? How many of Bill Cosby’s victims can you name? Think about what happened to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford when she testified against Brett Kavanaugh in a senate hearing. She had to move away and hire a security team because of the threats against her. On a smaller scale, you can just read the comments under any news article. There is no shortage of vitriol towards the survivor. There is nothing to gain from a false accusation, which is why they are so rare. 

Poet Rhiannon McGavin, in response to a reckoning in 2014 of multiple sexual abuse allegations against famous youtubers, said this: 

“You can never do wrong by believing the victim. Even if, against all odds, their accusations are false, all YOU did as the bystander was believe a vulnerable person.”

The Women’s Center has a supporting survivors workshop that explains best practices for supporting a survivor in your own life. One of the most important takeaways is the value in believing survivors.

“Sexual violence is severely underreported because survivors feel that they will be disbelieved or doubted. Believe them unconditionally and tell them so; people rarely make up stories of sexual assault, rape, or abuse. It is not necessary for you to decide if they were “really hurt” or if it “really happened that way.” Don’t try to excuse the abuser’s behavior, don’t play devil’s advocate, and don’t try to minimize or explain away the survivor’s experience. It’s invaluable for survivors to hear “I believe you and I’m here for you.”

Remember that you are not an investigator. It is not your job to prove in a court of law that the accuser is telling the truth. The most important role you can play is to believe the survivor, which then empowers others to come forward and be believed. The devil doesn’t need an advocate, and there will already be a shocking amount of harsh words and threats against a survivor who accuses a celebrity. Don’t be a part of the reason that more victims are silenced. 

2) You believe the accuser, but think that you can separate the art from the artist.

Maybe you think the survivor is telling the truth, but you just really love SWMRS music. Can’t you listen to it anyway? Why stop wearing their merch, it’s so comfy! Sure, you can try to separate the art from the artist, but all creators put a piece of themselves into their art. Do you really feel okay listening to someone sing about their thoughts and feelings knowing that they are an abuser? Their willingness to assault or abuse someone factors into what they say and what they feel. Not to mention that when you’re giving them money, they don’t care that you’re separating their art from them. There is no material difference when that money goes into their pocket.  

It’s also important to consider the impact that your support has on others. Even if you do believe the victim, that’s not what you are portraying to the world. When they see you wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the name of a known abuser, what are you saying? Whether you mean to or not, you’re saying that abuse is not a deal breaker. When you financially support an abuser by buying their merch or music or seeing their new movie, what impact does that have on their victim? Practice some empathy here. Imagine how you would feel if someone assaulted you and a friend said “I believe you, but I’m still going to give them money and publicly show my support for their art anyway. But don’t worry, I’m separating the art from the artist.” 

While this may be a thought provoking exercise for you, it is the reality of many survivors who see their abusers continue to thrive. I am asking that you care about other people. Giving up a band or a comedy special is worth it to protect a vulnerable person. If you truly support and believe them, your actions should reflect that. 

3) You believe the accuser, and no longer support the accused.

I believe this is the best option. Yes, it sucks. But it sucks way more to be a victim and see the world continue to celebrate your abuser. 

However, I do recognize that this isn’t as cut and dry as I sometimes wish. Where do we draw the line? Is anyone redeemable? Is it our place to decide? These are questions that I ask myself whenever I see a new accusation, and it’s something that I still grapple with. In the end, I think what matters most is how the survivor feels, and offering them your belief and your support. I care less about whether the accused still has fans, and more that the accuser is being supported however they most need it. I think for a lot of survivors, deplatforming their abuser is a large part of feeling supported. 

I can’t speak for everyone, but these things hold true in my own life. Watching abusers be praised is painful to me. Seeing abusers be supported reminds me of the ways that I was not. Of course, we are all capable of harming others, we are all going to do the wrong thing, and we all should face some consequences and learn from our mistakes. I just believe that there is some harm for which the appropriate consequence is to lose your public platform, especially if that platform is what facilitated the abuse in the first place. 

In a world where both of the top presidential candidates have been accused of sexual assault, it is clear that rape culture is pervasive. My heart is heavy for all the people who have not shared their story, for everyone who has to watch their abuser win an award or star in a movie or come up in the music industry. And of course, there is the more common occurrence: survivors everywhere have to watch their abuser graduate, get married, and have kids. Many of us will never get justice. Many of us still don’t quite know what justice would even look like.

This is messy, and there are no easy answers. But no matter what answer you arrive at, it is vital that we show all survivors the support that they deserve.

For information on sexual violence resources and support, click here.

‘Pandemic: New Horizons’ or How Animal Crossing and Other Games Offer Comfort in Chaos

Kaitlyn is a junior Social Work major and is a student staff member at the Women’s Center.

Are you feeling isolated? Lonely? Lost in a chaotic world that doesn’t make sense anymore? Me too! At a time where we feel more out of control than ever, video games are something that I know many of us are using to keep us going. I asked some of my friends what games they were playing, and how it’s been helping them cope with the chaos. Everyone agreed that the games they were playing functioned as a distraction, and something that brought them joy. Others felt that it brought a sense of control.

In terms of control, I feel like we’re lacking a lot of that right now during this pandemic. I don’t get to visit people, go out to movies or restaurants, or even just stop by a Yankee Candle to get too many candles (when you think about it, the scented candle industry is hit pretty hard here). In Animal Crossing, I can feel control… I get to decide what I want to do, where I want to go, what flowers I’m going to plant, and even if I want to sell my prized oarfish or give it to the museum. Really, I just want to keep it forever. Regardless of my fish-mongering tendencies, it’s nice to build a world all your own where animals are neighbors and you have no-interest loans. It’s like a lucid daydream in some ways.

-Amelia

Rosie had some more…unique hopes for the games.

If I make my island in animal crossing perfect, then maybe one day I’ll get sucked into my switch and live out the rest of my existence on this island where I can play with cute animals.

-Rosie

Games can also be a great way to connect to friends during a time where a lot of us are feeling isolated.

animal crossing is my heart and soul. i can dress however i want, talk to the cutest little islander characters, and visit my friend’s islands! it helps me stay connected to the people i hold close in my life.

-Scout

While animal crossing is a popular choice during this pandemic, there are some other games that are getting people through too! Kay has been playing a lot of Stardew Valley in recent weeks.

Stardew Valley is a game you can’t rush through. It guides me in being patient and taking time to enjoy the game.You can slowly build relationships with the other characters in Stardew Valley. Every CPU character has their own personality, daily routine, likes and dislikes. Over time you learn more about the townsfolk!

-Kay

Autumn has been playing a lot of old school runescape. Her favorite part? The grind. They also find the game to be a good distraction.

It’s a massive time sink that I can play without thinking about much else.

-Autumn

Not only are video games a fun way to distract yourself from the terrifying reality that we’re facing, they can be really affirming too! In Animal Crossing for example, clothing and hairstyle choices aren’t confined to binary gendered options. You can design your character however you like, and have fun designing your character to be whatever feels best for that day. There are endless possibilities!

In ACNH, they default to they/them pronouns for everyone. That feels really really good.

-Amelia

I’ve been playing a ton of Animal Crossing lately. Hanging out with my cute islanders, listening to the calming music, and decorating the island all bring a little more peace to my life. It’s a strange and scary world right now, and it’s okay to feel every bit of that confusion or grief or fear. And, when all that feeling gets a little too overwhelming, it’s okay to escape for a while into whatever world makes you happy.  

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

When Work Becomes a War Zone

This year, I became one of the many women who leave their jobs because of sexual harassment. I always knew it was something that happened; I just didn’t think it would happen to me.

I’m not alone; reports have found that 60% of women say they experience “unwanted sexual attention, sexual coercion, sexually crude conduct, or sexist comments” in the workplace. It’s a scary and isolating experience, and deciding what to do about it is difficult. After it happened, I did everything “right.” I didn’t wait, I went directly to my HR representative, and I told the truth. It didn’t matter that I followed protocol; they still didn’t do anything about it. 

The fact that I reported my harassment already puts me in the minority. It’s estimated that 90% of people who are harassed at work never report it, for a variety of reasons. Some workers are undocumented and face the threat of deportation if they come forward, something their abusers know and exploit. Others are afraid of retaliation — a very real fear. 71% of people who report their harassment to The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission also report retaliation. Others simply don’t think they’ll be believed. Every day, women are forced into a situation where they must continue working with their harasser.

I continued working with the man who harassed me for six months. I would hide in the bathroom during downtimes on my shift so that I wouldn’t have to see him. My income went down as I gave shifts away on days I knew he would be working. Eventually, I was able to switch around my hours to avoid him, but even then, I never felt safe at work again. I knew that if anything happened to me, I would not be taken seriously.

So, I quit. But not until I found a new job, which took months, and not without taking a pretty significant pay cut. Again, this is a tragically common occurrence. For many, sexual harassment leads to not only to a decline in mental health, but significant financial stress. One study found that as many as 8 in 10 women who experience sexual harassment leave their job within two years. For some, this means leaving a job before a new one is found and facing the economic hardship of unemployment. For others, this means abandoning well-paying jobs or leaving their field altogether, limiting opportunities for career advancement or tenure. 

It’s also important to note that women of color are disproportionately affected by this. Already, women of color are presumed to be less competent no matter their qualifications. This negatively impacts their potential for professional advancement on top of all the impacts that sexual harassment has on their careers. The power imbalances between women of color and white bosses put them at an even greater risk. In 2016, black women reported harassment at 3.8 times the rate of white women. We know that most women never report their harassment, so it’s likely that the real numbers are much higher.

I paint a bleak picture, I know, but it’s important to understand that this is still happening and that despite all the progress that’s been made, too many employers still don’t take it seriously. It’s important to keep talking about the harassment we face, to continue to speak out against it and not let our stories be ignored or brushed aside. I want to talk about what happened to me because it wasn’t fair. It shouldn’t have happened and I won’t stop shouting until something changes. My story is not unique. I am not alone. And neither are you.  

Additional Information and Resources 

What it’s like to return to work after being sexually harassed

Guide for potential ways to respond if you’re being sexually harassed at work 

Racial disparities in sexual harassment statistics 

More information about workplace sexual harassment