January Volunteer of the Month

MESA is pleased to spotlight Alyssa as our Volunteer of the Month. Alyssa is an invaluable part of our volunteer team. Alyssa has always been such a willing volunteer and makes every effort to participate in everything we do. Thank you, Alyssa, for your dedication to MESA and our community!

Let’s hear from Alyssa!

  1. What do you enjoy most about volunteering with MESA?
    I enjoy growing in relationships with fellow volunteers of the MESA community as we support one another through the important and challenging work we do. I am honored to be part of such a passionate and dedicated group of people.
  2. How long have you been with MESA?
    I have been with MESA for 3 years.
  3. If you could only bring three items to a deserted island, what would you bring?
    I would bring a smart yet willing companion, a large knife, and a hammock!
  4. How do you usually spend your Saturdays?
    I spend warm Saturdays catching up on fresh air and the cold ones catching up on shows, books and cuddles.
  5. What is your biggest accomplishment to date?
    Making the best soup the world has ever seen.
  6. If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
    I want to have the ability to talk to animals because I know my cat has been trying to tell me something for years and it can’t still be “Feed me!” If only I could understand her after all this time!

Interested in becoming a MESA volunteer? Apply today!

 

 

Join MESA’s Spring 2018 Volunteer Training!

Do you want to be the change? Volunteer with MESA!

As a volunteer with MESA, you can:

  • Provide support, information, and advocacy in-person at the hospital or police department
  • Meet one-on-one with clients as part of healing and recovery
  • Assist with support groups
  • And more!

The dates for the Spring 2018 hotline advocate training are:

Monday 1/22, 6-9pm
Wednesday 1/24, 6-9pm
Saturday 1/27, 9am-3:30pm
Monday 1/29, 6-9pm
Wednesday 1/31, 6-9pm
Saturday 2/3, 9am-3:30pm
Monday 2/5, 6-9pm
Wednesday 2/7, 6-9pm
Monday 2/12, 6-9pm
(NO TRAINING Wednesday 2/14)
Monday 2/19, 6-9pm
Wednesday 2/21, 6-9pm


GET STARTED TODAY

Fill out a volunteer application and e-mail it to natalie@movingtoendsexualassault.org if you are interested in hotline response.

Applications are due Wednesday, January 17th.

Have questions? E-mail us at info@movingtoendsexualassault.org or call our office
at 303-443-0400.

 

December Volunteer of the Month

 

MESA is pleased to spotlight Mallory as our Volunteer of the Month. Mallory is an invaluable part of our volunteer team. Mallory has always been such a willing volunteer and makes every effort to participate in everything we do. Thank you, Mallory, for your dedication to MESA and our community!

Let’s hear from Mallory!

  1. What do you enjoy most about volunteering with MESA?
    I have really enjoyed the immediate acceptance into the MESA community. Even though I have only been volunteering for a short while, I see fellow volunteers and hospital staff throughout Boulder almost every day. The smiles and the hellos we share never fail to brighten my day. It is so amazing to feel so connected to this community in such a short amount of time.
  2. How long have you been with MESA?
    I have been volunteering with MESA for about a month and a half. I finished my training in October [2017].
  3. How do you usually spend your Saturdays?
    I spend my Saturdays doing the quintessential Boulder day. I like to wake up early to either take my puppy on a hike or go to the farmers market, and then I like to eat lunch on Pearl.
  4. What was the last book you read?
    “The Yacoubian Building” by Alaa al-Aswany. It is an Egyptian novel about social upheaval in 1990s Egypt. It was the most fascinating, yet heartbreaking novel I have read in a while.
  5. Who is your role model?
    In complete honesty, my role model changes every day because there are so many amazing people in the world. Right now, I am really excited about Patty Jenkins, the director of “Wonder Woman.”
  6. If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
    I would be in multiple places at once so I could have more fun stories and experiences, and, of course, to get more things done.

Interested in becoming a MESA volunteer? Apply today!

Untangling Kevin Spacey’s Apology

Amid the deluge of high-profile disclosures of sexual assault and harassment experienced at the hands of the upper echelons of Hollywood come more stories of sexual misconduct from Kevin Spacey. Many of these disclosures come from male-identified actors, some of whom were minors at the time of the assault. In his response to the first disclosure against him, Spacey offers a vague apology and then shifts the conversation to coming out as a gay man, conflating the issue of sexual assault and sexual orientation in a deeply problematic way.

Perhaps Spacey hoped to draw attention away from the allegation by offering details about his personal life. In his response, Spacey says: “This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life…I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man. I want to deal with this honestly and openly and that starts with examining my own behavior.” What Spacey seems to suggest with this statement is that his sexual orientation is connected to his predatory behavior, which is not only a false correlation but also incredibly damaging and hurtful to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community, of which he now publicly claims to be part.

The LGBTQ community has faced constant discrimination throughout U.S. history, which manifests through different stereotypes. One of the more unfortunate and prominent stereotypes against the queer community is the idea that a gay man (or a lesbian woman, or someone with any other non-heterosexual orientation) is more likely to commit child sexual abuse. There is absolutely no factual evidence to suggest a correlation between non-heterosexual orientation and perpetration of child sexual abuse, much less causation. However, there is ample research evidence showing that LGBTQ people are victims of sexual assault at higher rates than straight people.

Looking at Spacey’s response as if it were meant to be a distraction brings up other concerns. If Spacey meant to offer this tidbit about himself a morsel of juicy gossip, it is an unfortunate reminder that we still live in a time when coming out of the closet is a spectacle for onlookers to revel in, pore over, and pick apart. LGBTQ people are not caricatures for consumption nor fodder for conversations; they are people deserving of respect, honor, discretion and privacy.

Although Spacey does not outright deny the allegations against him (he states he does not remember the interaction), he attributes his actions to “deeply inappropriate drunken behavior,” which seems like he is trying to relieve himself of responsibility because alcohol was involved. While alcohol is often a factor in sexual assault, it is likely to be used as a weapon use by perpetrators to disarm their victims, but is never an excuse for premeditated violence. The presence of alcohol neither absolves the perpetrator of responsibility for their behavior, nor does it make it acceptable to place responsibility on the victim for drinking.

What this shows is that conversations around sexual violence continue to be misdirected and misleading. Rather than recognizing the impact of a perpetrator’s actions and working toward some degree of accountability, conversations continue to revolve around gossip, power differentials, and red herrings that distract from the issue of sexual violence. Do not be duped by these distractions. Let’s keep the spot light right where it belongs— illuminating the reprehensible violent acts of perpetrators until they can no longer evade accountability.

Natalie Ziemba is the Hotline Supervisor with MESA, and originally started as a MESA volunteer. She enjoys reading, baking, and nuanced discussions of social justice issues.

Wellbeing Check

Wellbeing Check

Sexual assault has been all over the news. Are you…

  • Feeling inspired or triggered by #MeToo?
  • Feeling empowered or overwhelmed by media coverage of sexual assault?
  • Excited or anxious about spending time with family during the holidays?

Take time to prioritize YOU. Join a safe space to discuss your emotions and responses, share strategies for self-care, and refresh and recharge in community.

Who it helps: Designed for anyone who wants to process through recent events
When: Tuesday December 5th, 6:00-7:30pm
Where: MESA – 1333 Iris Avenue, Boulder, CO 80304 (group room)
Suggested donation: $5-10
For questions: Contact Natalie at 303-443-0400; groups@movingtoendsexualassault.org.

Title IX 101 – What’s All the Fuss About?

Title IX has received a lot of attention recently. Since the law impacts educational institutions and students across the nation, it is worth taking a closer look at what Title IX is, how it has been used in the past, and what has changed under the new administration.

The Education Amendments act of 1972 included language in Title IX that states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” In the early years after this legislation was passed, much of the discussion focused on equality between men’s and women’s athletics. More recently, this legislation has been the center of investigating gender discrimination, harassment, and sexual violence on college campuses. Both conversations focus on universities, but Title IX applies much more broadly than a university setting.

Any educational institution, K-12, public or private, that receives any amount of federal funding is obligated to follow and enforce Title IX. Funding may come in the form of governmental assistance for public schools or school lunch programs, or it may come in the form of students attending a private institution with the help of federal student aid. All educational institutions receiving federal funding have an obligation to ensure an environment that neither excludes nor denies educational opportunities on the basis of sex. Title IX protects student, staff and faculty who are victimized by other students, staff or faculty on or off school grounds, as well as visitors on school grounds who are victimized by students, staff or faculty. Victims have access to support and protections, and those found to have committed sexual harassment or assault following a school investigation may be subject to sanctions. If students, staff or faculty feel the school has mishandled the investigation, they can file a complaint with the federal Office for Civil Rights.

The broad language of the 1972 law has been through various interpretations, the most well-known of which are the 2011 Dear Colleague letter issued under the Obama administration that was repealed in September 2017 and replaced with a Q & A on interim guidance. Highlights comparing, contrasting, and noting significant changes are outlined below.

Similarities

Both sets of guidance emphasize equal opportunities for both the reporting party and the responding party to present evidence and witnesses in support of their cases. Additionally, both parties have the right to receive notifications equally about the investigation at various stages throughout the process, including the final outcome of the investigation and what, if any, sanctions have been imposed.

Differences

Interim measures

  • 2011: Recommended minimizing the burden on the victim, and emphasized the accessibility of interim measures for victims until an investigation was completed. Measures may include changes to class schedules or residence, course accommodations, and orders to stay away.
  • 2017: Such measures must be equally available to both victims and perpetrators.

 

Standard of evidence

  • 2011: Schools were required to use a preponderance of evidence standard (more likely than not that something happened) instead of a clear and convincing standard (highly likely that something happened).
  • 2017: Gives discretion to the school as to which standard of evidence to use.

 

Appeals

  • 2011: Recommended that schools provide an appeals process after completion of an investigation.
  • 2017: Schools have the option of whether to provide an appeals process after the investigation, and schools additionally have the discretion to decide whether the appeals process may be available to only the perpetrator, or to both the victim and the perpetrator.

 

Informal resolutions

  • 2011: If both parties voluntarily agreed, informal resolutions like mediation could be used in cases of sexual harassment but were deemed inappropriate for cases of sexual assault.
  • 2017: Allows the use of mediation in any sexual misconduct case.

 

Timeframe for investigations

While both 2011 and 2017 guidance recognized that there were multiple factors at play to determine a prompt response from the school,

  • 2011: Suggested investigations be completed within 60 calendar days.
  • 2017: No recommendations for how long an investigation should take.

 

Anonymity

  • 2011: Schools provided the option for victims to remain anonymous when filing a complaint with the school.
  • 2017: For an equitable investigation, new guidance recommends that schools provide sufficient details about any complaint of sexual misconduct to the perpetrator, including the name of the victim and the specific conduct in question of violating the school’s sexual misconduct policy. This information would be shared after the school decides to open an investigation about the conduct, not necessarily upon the initial report.

 

While some protections and processes remain the same from 2011 and 2017 guidance documents, some changes have drastically shifted the playing field. Victim advocacy and support services will continue to play a significant role in helping victims through the process of reporting sexual violence, though some of the recent guidance presents additional obstacles for victims.

Natalie Ziemba is the Hotline Supervisor with MESA, and originally started as a MESA volunteer. She enjoys reading, baking, and nuanced discussions of social justice issues.

November Volunteer of the Month

MESA is pleased to spotlight Gabby as our Volunteer of the Month. Gabby is an invaluable part of our volunteer team. Gabby has always been such a willing volunteer and makes every effort to participate in everything we do. Thank you, Gabby, for your dedication to MESA and our community!

Let’s hear from Gabby!

It really was a no brainer for me to choose to get involved in my community, and to be a part of changing the culture of sexual assault, an issue that has become so pervasive in our global community. I chose to get involved with MESA because there are simply too many “me too’s” in the world. It’s all around us, and more often more than not, we are naïve about how prevalent the issue is within the network of people that are a part of our lives.  Attention has been called to the issue of sexual violence, but not enough.  And too often, the matter is forgotten in the fast pace of life, when there isn’t a global story bringing it to attention.  Survivors don’t have the luxury of being able to forget.  Talking is important, but it’s not sufficient. Everyone needs to be held accountable for their actions, and that includes the responsibility of being involved in changing an issue that should be unacceptable.

I have been with MESA now for a year and a half, and I have loved every minute of my role in supporting survivors. MESA not only strives to provide security and support for survivors, but also works to create a safe place in the community for both survivors and volunteers alike. Sexual assault is relevant to every single persons life, in one way or another, and it should be something every person wants to take part in changing.  Survivors shouldn’t owe telling their story to attempt aiding change. There isn’t a day I don’t love being there to support survivors, whether that is through counseling or just being there to listen. But, the reality is, my job shouldn’t have to exist, and I hope there is a day in the near future where no more “me too’s” are added to the list, and where no one should have to fear being violated.

Interested in becoming a MESA volunteer? Apply today!

A Second Look at #MeToo

Part call to action, part show of solidarity, the recent trending of #MeToo serves as a rallying cry to draw attention to the pervasiveness of sexual violence and sexual harassment. The hashtag not only calls attention to the widespread impact of these criminal behaviors, but also builds public support for victims and survivors by showing they are not alone in their experiences (the hashtag was used almost 500,000 times within 24 hours). However, #MeToo is also problematic and potentially even silencing to those it seeks to support.

For some, the public call for disclosures of a personal history of sexual harassment or sexual violence may also carry with it a sense of coercion, which is a key element in experiences of sexual harassment or sexual assault. Forced disclosures may be counterproductive to recovery and healing because it recreates a feeling of disempowerment and lack of control. It is important to let victims and survivors choose when, how, and with whom to share their experiences.

Victims and survivors of sexual harassment and sexual violence are people, not statistics, and their personal stories are not up for public exhibition. No victim ever owes anybody else their story, and no one is ever entitled to hear the stories of survivors. It is a sign of trust, honor, and respect if someone chooses to share their experience with you.

There are countless reasons why someone may not disclose their personal history with sexual harassment or sexual assault. For many, it is not safe. Maybe they still live with their perpetrator and prioritize shelter over emotional well-being. Maybe they are under the age of 18 and don’t have access to support services without parental notification. For others, it may be a matter of feeling securely connected to someone who cares. Maybe they reached out to someone and were met with disbelief or blame. Maybe they were betrayed by their partner and don’t yet feel they can trust anyone else. And for still others, it might not fit the #MeToo rallying call. Maybe they haven’t yet labelled an experience as sexual assault because it doesn’t fit the stereotype of what sexual assault looks like. Maybe they are a male-identified survivor or an LGBTQ survivor, rather than the “women” called upon in the initial tweet.

Whatever the reason, some people may choose to keep their private experiences private, and they have every right to do so. Similarly, those that feel comfortable sharing their story in a public setting have every right to do so. That doesn’t change the long-standing statistics that 1 in 5 women will be raped in her life (1 in 4 will experience rape or attempted rape in a college setting), and 1 in 6 men will experience sexual abuse before the age of 18. However, #MeToo brings a personal story into these statistics. People tend to care more when an issue is connected to someone they care about, and #MeToo brings that personal link to the broader issue of sexual violence.

Next time you see a status update about someone’s personal experience with sexual harassment or sexual assault, remember that there is always someone else who does not share their personal experience. Every victim and survivor makes the choice that is best for them and their healing.

Natalie Ziemba is the Hotline Supervisor with MESA, and originally started as a MESA volunteer. She enjoys reading, baking, and nuanced discussions of social justice issues.

October Volunteer of the Month

 

MESA is pleased to spotlight Holly as our August Volunteer of the Month. Holly is an invaluable part of our volunteer team. Holly has always been such a willing volunteer and makes every effort to participate in everything we do. Thank you, Holly, for your dedication to MESA and our community!

Let’s hear from Holly!

  1. What do you enjoy most about volunteering with MESA?
    I love the community that we have. Everyone is so caring and supportive that I know if I ever had an issue I could go to anyone and instantly feel better.
  2. How long have you been with MESA?
    About 6 or 7 months now!
  3. What’s your personal theme song?
    I would have to say “Flawless” by Beyonce. I think it gives a lot of empowerment to women which I try to do every day and come on, we’re all flawless!
  4. What is your biggest accomplishment to date?
    I would say everything that MESA has given me. Signing up to be a volunteer and now being an intern and Super Group Leader. I love all the responsibilities I have and am very proud of the work that I do.
  5. If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
    I would want to heal. This is the work that I try to do daily, but it is usually automatic. Although pain is important to grow, there are many things I wish I could heal immediately.
  6. Who is your role model?
    My grandmother is my biggest role model. She raised me to be the person I am and has overcome more than I could imagine.

Interested in becoming a MESA volunteer? Apply today!

“What Do You Do?”

“So what do you do?” This seems like a straightforward, get-to-know you question that ideally leads to further conversation, and has even been recommended as a networking strategy because follow-up questions along this line give the other person the opportunity to elaborate on their strengths, skills and passion for their work. I try to avoid this question because my strengths, skills and passion are more likely to shut down the conversation in most social settings. I have been in the anti-sexual violence field for over a decade, and have yet to figure out how to work this topic smoothly into conversation at any given dinner party, much less as part of small talk while waiting at the check-out counter. I usually hem and haw at first, hoping people will accept my vague references to social work and move on. When they ask for, and I share, more details, I usually run into one of three standard responses:

“Wow, that’s such difficult work! I could never do that.” Yes, this work can be emotionally taxing, but because this work also plays to my aforementioned strengths, skills and passions, it is usually not overwhelming for me (if I keep up with my resilience strategies and support networks). I love it. “Hard work” means something entirely different to me than what I do on a daily basis.  I have yet to discover the perfect response to such statements, so I usually mention something about how amazing all the people are that choose to do this work and how much I learn every day.

“……” or “Well that’s nice. Have you heard about…” This response both easier and harder to handle. It’s easier because people tend to quickly change topics when they feel uncomfortable, and I am relieved of the responsibility to dismantle rape myths, victim blaming, and systems of oppression during the conversation. It is harder because then I am left knowing that I could have done more to make people aware of the issue. Their discomfort makes me uncomfortable and sometimes I take the easy way out because social norms call for it, and this cultural conditioning is tremendously difficult to overcome.

“That happened to me.” Whether I am the first person somebody has ever told or the thousandth, by stating my profession I also declare my identity as a supporter, advocate, ally and safe person. Visibility is important, and by making public this piece of my life, I tell everyone around me that I am available to talk about this taboo subject. All of us have the responsibility to help each other, and these responses are moments when I can set an example for sharing compassion.

While the first two responses are problematic because they dance around the issue of sexual violence without actually addressing it, they stand in contrast to the third response which is asking for validation and recognition. The first two tend to avoid the topic, while the third centers the conversation around it. It seems to me that these are also the default responses at the societal level. Until we can accept the uncomfortable reality that some people do bad things to other people who then must struggle through negative outcomes, we will continue to gloss over the issue of sexual violence and move on to more palatable topics, leaving survivors to find their own path forward with minimal support (if any).

The one exception to that is when I have a dinner party with the amazing people who have chosen to do this work. We share a similar perspective, understanding, and language for discussing sexual violence and these conversations come as naturally to me as any “regular” conversation I might have in my daily life. I feel invigorated and inspired despite overwhelming obstacles, and hopeful that societal conversations will change. Maybe all my dinner party conversations will feel that way one day.

 

Natalie Ziemba is the Hotline Supervisor with MESA, and originally started as a MESA volunteer. She enjoys reading, baking, and nuanced discussions of social justice issues.