November 9, 2017
Community Activist Tarana Burke created the “Me Too” campaign in 2007 with the intention of connecting survivors of sexual violence. Ms. Burke told Ebony Magazine recently “It was a catchphrase to be used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible.” Numerous reflective Op-Ed pieces and articles have been circulating through our social media sphere since #Metoo was reposted by Alyssa Milano on Twitter in early October. As each day passes, more people are adding their stories, many for the first time, building our social awareness of the massive scope and impact of sexual violence. And not just people who have experienced sexual violence first hand are joining into the conversation. Sisters, mothers, fathers and partners are finding support for their own feelings of secondary trauma and our communities are growing more practiced in discussing the hushed, terroristic realities of women, girls and people who are gender non-conforming.
Notably, there have been honest and reflective stories shared by men who, many for the first time, are aware of their participation in the acceptance of a violent culture. One tweet stated clearly, what has been running through my mind.
moth dad @innesmck:
1:36 AM – Oct 16, 2017
hey dudes if you’re surprised how many people posting to #metoo are women you know think what that means about the men you know
Mainstream men are beginning to comprehend how their historic silence has allowed other men to repeatedly enact terror through their platform of power. For example, with Harvey Weinstein, it was commonly shared between female actresses that he was an aggressive perpetrator who used the threat of his social capital to squash their career by denying them roles in media productions. Seth McFarlane snuck in a comment about Weinstein during the 2013 Oscars, while presenting the Best Supporting Actress award. On Twitter, McFarlane recently shared the “joke” was his attempt to validate the sexual violence story shared by his co-star, Jessica Barth. It was an opportunity for McFarlane to use his platform at the Oscars letting his co-star know he believed her. Many of us can do this AND more. Through our collective socialization of manhood, many men have the opportunity of modeling inclusive words, using our social media outlets to circulate thoughtful articles about healthy manhood and positively encouraging the young people in our lives that their choices and desires are valid. We can reflect inward by examining our own beliefs when we read articles or hear stories about people who have been sexually assaulted. We should believe our friends, when they share/post about their #Metoo experience and then repost their responses on our social media accounts. To understand what it’s like for women, girls and people who are gender non-conforming, we must ask those in our lives who have less social power about their daily experiences with sexism and sexual assault. Questions such as “what’s it like walking by yourself at night?” or “how do you feel when a strange man approaches you at the gas station?” And after we ask, we MUST listen with our ears and our hearts, not interrupting, correcting or questioning their responses. These have been eye-opening conversations when I have asked my female friends. It has been difficult to hear, listening about their realities of constantly considering their own safety when out in public. But, my discomfort cannot match the feelings of fear my female friends continue to experience.
In my youth, I justified the violent stories about some of the men I socialized with as miscommunicated intentions, a woman’s regret, and even using the false idea of reverse-sexism. These defenses enabled me to not reflect on my own beliefs about women and continued to demonize the men who did commit sexual violence as mentally ill or addicts, rather than see the men I socialized with as serial offenders.
While providing one-time workshops with middle, high school and college students, defining consent and highlighting the characteristics of healthy relationships may create minimal impact, it will not change our reality. Policies and arrests have been our first and last line of defense. And still, our 2017 Idaho Youth Risk Behavior Survey reports that 1 in 5 high school female students experienced sexual dating violence in the past 12 months. Without getting honest about our own actions and role in perpetuating this cycle of violence, #Metoo will continue to grow. It is past due for men to do more than tell our sons not to hit girls. We must turn our gaze inward at our own attitudes and beliefs about women and people who are gender non-conforming. We must listen to women in our lives and put action towards their suggestions for how to make our communities safer for everyone. Our silence has fanned the fire of sexual assault for far too long. Join me and a nation of men with #IWillSpeakUp and publicly turn up our voices to amplify #Metoo and examine your attitudes, beliefs and actions. As men, we must ask ourselves how are we modeling healthy manhood for the next generation of young men and women in Idaho? Collectively, we can use our individual platforms to keep pulling back the curtain on our social secret of sexual violence and begin to move our manhood closer to humanity.
– Jeff Matsushita
Since 2009, Becky James has been with Boundary County Victim Services, most recently as executive director for the last three and half years. Boundary County Victim Services is the safe, caring sanctuary for community members to turn when impacted by trauma and violence in Bonners Ferry in northern Idaho. Along with her staff Melissa Krejci and Janette James, Boundary County Victim Services offers resources for community members impacted by domestic or sexual violence and other forms of violence.
Located in the Boundary County Court building in the center of Bonners Ferry, Becky, Melissa, and Janette have created a welcoming environment in a tiny space. Even with three desks in an office space likely designed for one person, Becky and her colleagues have created a welcoming and spacious environment through the thoughtful arrangement of the furniture. Among the brochures and resources for individuals impacted by violence are photographs of family and friends, fleece blankets tucked in the corner, and above their desks, a small hammock filled with Beanie babies. This space works for the advocates because “we respect each other immensely,” said Becky. “We read each other well and we are all very committed to this work.”
During our conversation with Becky, a community member dropped off a basket of horse supplies for an auction at the agency’s upcoming Fall Festival and Fashion show fundraiser (which sells out every year) and staff member with the prosecutor’s office came in to visit. Throughout the morning, both of Becky’s phones rang – concerns from a local therapist about an injured client, a call for a request for services. Boundary County Victim Services is a hub in this community for connection.
Becky, Melissa, and Janette advocate and work to repair the harm of violence in their community in multiple ways – from being on call 24/7 and an essential resource for law enforcement and prosecutors to serving as a sanctuary that people are drawn to for respite and healing to building authentic relationships with community partners from the criminal justice system to the health care system. “It is important to have relationships with prosecuting attorneys and their staff,” said Becky. Boundary County Victim Services has been a member of the MDT Child Abuse Task force for many years, and works closely with the hospital staff. Becky and her staff are also working with the local schools to reach youth in the prevention of violence and create spaces for women to come together for assertiveness workshops.
Becky is an avid reader and learner, and is committed to building her knowledge and capacity to advocate for individuals impacted by violence. As the executive director, Becky encourages the advocates to regularly read articles or watch webinars. “Training builds our confidence, and the knowledge over time translates to wisdom” said Becky. This love for learning is shared by Melissa, who is currently taking classes and working towards her personal goals of completing college.
Not unlike many rural programs, Becky shared the stress of “being on call” throughout the week and the weekend. Even if there are no calls, Becky shared that the responsibility of being on call impacts her ability to rest for the following week and requires her to stay in Bonners Ferry to be able to provide emergency services. Becky understands the need to reset and is exploring ways to share the crisis line responsibility, and is considering training volunteers.
Boundary County Victim Services is center for connection, sharing, and healing. Not surprising for anyone who knows Becky, she is an idealist, and along with her committed and passionate advocates Melissa and Janette, Boundary County Victim Services embodies positivity and enthusiasm and serves as a light for individuals and families impacted by violence in northern Idaho.
Over half of the men who engage in mass violence in recent history in our country have a history of domestic violence. Not surprisingly, the man who killed twenty-six people at a Texas church had a history and conviction on domestic violence. While the national media wrongly often focuses on the shooter’s race, religion, or whether he had mental illness, we know that a pattern of domestic violence is one of the unreported “canaries in the gold mine.” A number of the perpetrators in recent infamous mass shootings had histories of abusing their wives, mothers and daughters.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, 54 percent of mass shootings involve a partner or another family member being killed. Male violence is an acute threat to American women: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that homicide is the fifth leading cause of death for women from 18 to 44, and more than half of these killings were carried out by men they knew — husbands, boyfriends, exes, or other intimate partners. Women in the United States are 16 times more likely to be killed by a gun than in other developed nations.
Tuesday, November 28 – Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Boise State University, Student Union Building, Boise, Idaho
Compassionate Communities: We Choose All of Us is a two-day conference where we will envision a world where everyone is valued, everyone is safe, and everyone can thrive. Together we will create a collaborative space for social services and social change to come together to explore ways to repair the harm from our culture of domination, extraction, and violence and to re-imagine a world rooted in interdependence, resilience, and regeneration.
Registration opens October 1st on www.engagingvoices.org.
This webinar will be an introduction to the evidence-based methods and principals of Motivational Interviewing. Participants will learn the basic techniques and skills needed to implement Motivational Interviewing in their everyday work with survivors. Participants will gain skills that can help them to assess a survivor’s readiness and motivation for change and support survivors in identifying and achieving their goals while in transitional housing. The presenter for this webinar will be Vanessa Timmons, Executive Director, at the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence.
Registration information is available on the website www.idahosherffs.org.