Tuesday, October 25, 2011

'Waitress' emphasizes importance of addressing domestic abuse

Three women sit on a bench outside of a the small-town diner where they work as waitresses. They start up what appears to be a conversation familiar to them. Dawn: "But now here you are [Jenna], married to this handsome guy … who's got very good hair, and pregnant with a little girl. But neither of us would trade places with you for one second, now would we Becky?"

Becky: "No we wouldn't, Dawn, No we wouldn't."

As the offending, attractive-haired husband in question, Earl, tears into the parking lot to pick up Jenna, the nature of the waitresses' conversation becomes clear: Earl is a controlling jerk.

Earl speaks in a threatening tone and reacts with satisfaction when Jenna gives in to his every command. As he proceeds to collect all of Jenna's tips from the day and threatens to make her leave her job, the viewer gets the uncomfortable feeling that Jenna is walking on egg shells with her every move around Earl.

The film, "Waitress," depicts between 600,000 and 6 million women's realities in the United States per year. This number doesn't take into the account the number of men who experience the same violence and control. While women do make up the majority of domestic violence victim, 15 percent of those affected are male.

The myth that only physical abuse can be considered domestic violence saturates the media. Films and television shows typically show cases of murders or extreme physical attacks. This is an important and very real occurrence in the world. The Domestic Violence Resource Center states, "On average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day." However, a typical case can be much more subtle and complex.

As demonstrated in "Waitress," domestic abuse includes much more than physical abuse; intimidation, isolation, emotional and financial abuse are all common weapons perpetrators use to control their victim. Perpetrators can lower the victim's self-esteem, restrict the victim from seeing or speaking with friends and family, and control their access to finances.

These all serve to keep the victim under their control and create major barriers that keep them from leaving. It is important to recognize that these behaviors are just as serious and abusive as physical attacks and are often more difficult to detect.
With young people comprising almost half of domestic violence cases, it's important to remember these myths when observing relationships in our daily lives. Whether for our personal relationships or those of our friends and family, it is necessary to keep an eye out for these traits. They are neither excusable nor normal; they are indicative of a violent relationship and must be taken seriously.

Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment (PAVE) is a student organization dedicated to ending sexual assault, dating/domestic violence and stalking on the UW-Madison campus through education and activism. In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, PAVE will be screening "Waitress" on Tuesday, October 25 at 7 p.m. in Ogg Hall.

-Olivia Jonynas

**As published in The Daily Cardinal

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cosmopolitan and sexual assault reporting on campus

The September issue of Cosmopolitan features an article that hits home for many students here at UW-Madison. Molly Triffin ‘s “The Scary Truth About Rape on Campus” details the flawed systems for reporting and processing sexual assault cases in universities across the country. It shares personal stories of victims who were failed by these systems on their campuses, one of whom attended UW-Madison. Although it is certainly wonderful that Cosmo is giving this issue national attention, there are several problems with the article and its presentation.

The article uses specific examples and personal stories from victims to communicate the severity of the problem with reporting sexual assaults on college campuses. However, Triffin fails to honor the survivors in her article by using victim-blaming language. According to her, all of these women were “allegedly” assaulted. Each statement about their assaults is qualified first by words that imply the possibility that these women are lying. They “claimed” to have been assaulted. They “say” that this horrible thing happened to them. These seemingly miniscule changes remove all blame from the perpetrator and place responsibility for the assault on the victim herself.

Victim blaming is prevalent throughout the article. It is heavily implied that those victims who choose not to report their assaults are somehow wrong. Laura, the UW-Madison student who waited a year before coming forward with her story, seems to have her reasons for hesitation trivialized. Rather than address how incredibly difficult it is to report a sexual assault to school authorities or the police, Triffin instead outright states that victims simply “don't want to believe it happened to them.” Again, Triffin's article places all responsibility on victims. She seems to invalidate the reasons a survivor of sexual assault may have for not reporting, and ultimately hold victims responsible for cases where the assailant is not convicted. She also ignores the possibility that some victims don’t feel reporting to the police or campus officials is the right step for them.

The article goes on to completely disregard a victim's right to privacy. Triffin poses the question, “So why don't [colleges] turn these cases over to the police?” Without the consent of a victim, no college should ever consider sending a case onto local police. It is entirely up to the victim should they decide to file a police report in addition to a report to campus authorities. Triffin offers the rather unsatisfactory answer that “students want to keep the matter private,” and does not acknowledge that a police report is not always what is best for the victim.

On top of the victim blaming that litters the story, there is a sense of hypocrisy present. Cosmopolitan, while helping to normalize female sexuality, is not a terribly socially conscious magazine. It is completely hetero-normative, only discussing women and their sexual encounters with men. The magazine portrays the sexes in stereotypical ways: Men are masculine and women are feminine. End of discussion. And while the magazine does promote the still taboo subject of female sexuality, it spends the majority of its pages telling women how to please their men, oftentimes boiling down the success of a relationship to conforming to gender norms and doing whatever her man wants her to do in the bedroom.

As these trends demonstrate, Cosmopolitan doesn’t understand the forces behind rape culture and how sexual assault happens. Until they magazine demonstrates it has educated itself about the implications of gender norms, how the language we use perpetuates rape culture, what victim blaming is and how it happens and, perhaps most important, how to support a survivor, it will be difficult to take moves like this seriously.

If an impact is really to be made, then the inclusion of the occasional article on sexual assault is not enough. Before Cosmo puts itself at the forefront of the movement to stop sexual violence, perhaps some of its content should be reevaluated to promote a healthier idea of sexuality.

-Tessie Benser

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Observing DVAM as a survivor

Throughout October, UW-PAVE will host a number of events for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. For many in the campus community, these events will truly bring them awareness about an issue that has long been called a "silent epidemic." But for those of us who are plenty aware of the current pervasiveness of domestic, dating and intimate partner violence--whether through prevention work, as survivors ourselves or both--this month can be both an energizing and personally trying time. I have met so many people like me who have become advocates because our own DV experiences, wanting to take an active role in helping end the cycle. But during DVAM, and really every other month of the year, we cannot advocate for others until we advocate for ourselves. To that end, I highly recommend the book "Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide To Caring For Self While Caring For Others" by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky. This text has been making its rounds in social work offices across the country since its 2010 publication (it was gifted to me by a facilitator from the Seattle-based non-profit The NW Network of LGBTQ Survivors of Abuse last year). Lipsky helps "anyone who interacts with the suffering, pain and crisis of others or our planet" empower themselves to find healthy paths of response to these daily interactions. "Trauma Stewardship" can be found at most bookstores and libraries, so do yourself a favor and check it out. Take care PAVEers!

In solidarity,

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Help exists for domestic abuse victims

When most people think of October, they picture falling leaves, football games and wrapping themselves up in layers before heading to class. However, October has a significant meaning for Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment (PAVE), a student organization on campus.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), a nationally recognized time of observance and action. This year, PAVE is taking a stand for the UW-Madison, creating awareness about domestic violence's existence on campus.

Domestic violence is an ongoing pattern of behavior in a relationship where one person exerts power and control over another. This includes physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse. As such, no one, regardless of sex, gender, race or sexual orientation is immune to the realities of domestic violence.

Some people may think, "Really, it exists on campus? Doesn't it take place in the movies with someone who everyone knows is bad? Surely it can't happen to me. I'm too smart to put myself in that situation, right?"

Unfortunately, domestic violence exists in Wisconsin; it even exists here on campus. From national statistics published by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and females ages 20-24 are at the highest risk of non-fatal domestic violence.

That means our fellow Badgers, the people we attend class with, "Jump Around" with and party with on the weekends, are often survivors of domestic violence or currently in an abusive relationship.

When it comes to domestic violence, there is often no physical evidence of wrongdoing. It is easy to cover up bruises with long sleeves, and emotional abuse doesn't leave any plainly visible scars. But it is impossible for victims to erase the memories and effects of domestic violence.

According to research conducted by the Domestic Violence and Mental Health Policy Initiative, victims of domestic violence are more likely to have sexual difficulties and eating disorders. Victims are also more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder and are at a significant risk of suicide.

These are the issues plaguing student victims on campus, day in and day out. Try adding the challenges of PTSD on top of worrying about financial aid, getting good grades and the rest of college-imposed stresses.

Conversely, think about how difficult it can seem to rid yourself of your largest support system. It may not make sense to you, but that's what it feels like to victims when they break it off with an abusive partner. It's a situation of constant worry, and it is something that people all over campus experience.

Domestic violence knows no bounds. It is not limited to a specific gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, mental capacity, physical capabilities, etc. It could happen to someone with a 4.0 GPA or someone on academic probation. Unfortunately, it could happen to anyone.

Some of the signs of an abusive partner may be: controlling behaviors, not allowing you to see friends, threatening to harm you or themselves based on your actions, telling you things to put you down or treating you as a sexual object. This list is not at all exhaustive, but demonstrates the different facets of domestic violence.

Because any one of us could be at risk of being in an abusive relationship, it is important to know that there is help. You can get out of it, even though it may seem impossible. The Madison community and our university offer plenty of outlets for assistance. It is OK to ask for help. You are not weak for reaching out. In fact, it is one of the strongest things you can do.

Yesterday marks the 30th anniversary of the National Day of Unity, a day started by the NCADV to bring advocates against domestic violence together. The day of awareness was turned into an entire month, and that is why DVAM is now observed throughout October.

PAVE is observing DVAM in East Campus Mall from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today to encourage students to sign pledges in support of healthy relationships and the victims of domestic violence. Please come out and show your support for your fellow students, community members and friends.

If you believe you are in an abusive relationship, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-723 for assistance. Locally, you can call the Dane County Rape Crisis Center's rape hotline at 608-251-7273 or Madison's Domestic Abuse Intervention Service's hotline at 608-251-4445.

Tomissa Porath wrote this article and is a PAVE media volunteer.

PAVE is a student organization dedicated to ending sexual assault, dating/domestic violence and stalking on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus through education and activism. PAVE's general member meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Oct. 6 in the PAVE office, suite #3147 of the Student Activity Center. For more information or to find out how to get involved, e-mail uwpavemedia@gmail.com.

**As published in The Daily Cardinal

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Students must act to prevent sexual assault

Last week, thousands of freshmen descended onto the UW-Madison campus. Eager to start the next chapter of their lives, most are delightfully overwhelmed with everything this tremendous university has to offer. Most are also undereducated about a reality plaguing this campus: Sexual assault.

Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment (PAVE) continually finds that the majority of students come to UW-Madison believing rape is something that only happens in the middle of the night when no one is around.

As we've seen far too many times this summer, this form of rape certainly happens and needs to be addressed, but there is another reality students need to be aware of: One in four women will be victims of rape or attempted rape during their time at college. Ninety percent of these assaults will be perpetrated by someone the victim knows. While these numbers are staggering, most students remain confused about the scenario in which sexual assaults most commonly occur.

Knowing this dangerous misconception exists, it should be the university administration's responsibility to inform all, but especially new students, of these undeniable realities. Currently, the university invites freshmen to participate in a sexual assault prevention program, one that has proven effective. Pre-tests show that most students start the program ill informed about the definitions, realities and dynamics of sexual assault, but, based on their post-test scores, leave with a better, more comprehensive understanding.

Still, only 13 percent of students completed the workshop in the fall of 2010, while 27 percent had partial completion and 60 percent did nothing at all. Because the program is not mandatory, there is no way to ensure students will take the initiative and complete it.

However, 80 percent of those who completed either all or a portion of the program felt it was important for colleges to provide a sexual assault prevention program to its students, this compared to 49 percent of the population who did not complete any of the program. This gap suggests that once students are taught about the realities of sexual assault, they realize how severe of an issue it is and how important it is for students to be educated about the topic.

One gentleman who completed the program said, "It helped me understand how I can help stop sexual assault from happening to people around me. Even if I'm not involved in it, I can help stop it." This is an incredibly powerful take-away. If every student had this attitude, the impact would be profound and felt around campus. Yet, because the university does not enforce this program, the potential for change is lost.

That said, we cannot simply point our fingers at the university administration and expect them to rid this community of rape. Is there more they could be doing? Absolutely, but we cannot expect anyone else to take action against rape until the majority of students step up and actively recognize it as a serious problem on campus.

Passive disdain for sexual assault is not sufficient. We need to use our collective voice to say we will not let our campus be a place where rape is prevalent. We will not let our institutional leaders or peers turn a blind eye when something tragic happens. And, most of all, we will not let ourselves remain idle when offered the opportunity to make a difference and learn.

Doing this not only means holding perpetrators accountable, but also breaking down the existent rape culture. We need to remember that alcohol is not a gateway to consent. We need to stop blaming rape victims for what they were wearing, how much they were drinking or how promiscuous they are, but instead blame the rapists for not getting consent. Most of all, we need to remember that consent is a freely given ‘yes,' not the absence of a ‘no.' Rape would occur far less frequently on campus if this simple distinction was recognized by all. Sexuality may be a private issue, but sexual assault is a community problem. We all must work together to stop it.

PAVE is a student organization dedicated to ending sexual assault, dating/domestic violence and stalking on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus through education and activism. PAVE's kickoff meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Sept. 15 in the PAVE office, room #3147 of the Student Activity Center. For more information or to find out how to get involved, e-mail uwpavemedia@gmail.com.

-Jacqueline O'Reilly

**As published in The Daily Cardinal

Monday, March 28, 2011

PAVE volunteer sounds off on Virgin Mobile stalking commercials


Ugh, this commercial is horrible!! I can't believe all of the comments on it, too. Most of them are saying that it's hilarious and true, and the few people that have commented about how it's bad are getting insulted. I like this comment, though: "This is a bad commercial. It seems funny at first....but then you realize it's showing how Facebook, and Twitter can be used by stalkers. I bet you what they're showing has actually happened. Imagine this ad, if the stalker was a dude instead. Much, much less funny." I like how they're getting at the point that it's minimizing the seriousness of stalking, showing how technology has become a major tool for stalkers, and how it's reinforcing the idea that all females are stalkers.


Ahh, the second one is even worse! It's like they're totally insinuating that all girls are hysterical and "crazy" and that people will therefore relate to the commerical and be more likely to buy the phone. And the fact that they're portraying stalking, especially by a girl, as harmless and comical is just disgusting.

Post by: Stephanie Cook

Monday, February 21, 2011

PAVE discusses sexual assault myths from "Law & Order"

On Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011 at 7 PM, Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment (PAVE) screened an episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” called “Confrontation.” Post the viewing, PAVE hosted discussion about the portrayal of, among other things, rape and stalking.

“Confrontation” opens with the rape of Elizabeth held at knifepoint. She soon confronts her rapist with a club and starts to hit him. Detective Stabler, lead detective for the Special Victims Unit, eventually finds her dead in an alley. Her murder sparks an intense investigation into a series of rapes in the Brooklyn area. During the investigation, the SVU discovers the victim had been stalked by her rapist and was likely rape more than once. This holds true with the rapist’s other victims. Throughout the episode, his other two victims encounter a lot of turmoil, including one, Gina, committing suicide. Eventually Luke Dixon, an office assistant at the realtor’s office his victims were renting through, is arrested for his heinous crimes. It is later uncovered that he rapes women to impregnate and thus create a master race.

All of the students found “Confrontation” disturbing, especially its pervasive stereotypes. The first myth the show encourages: victims do not know their attackers. This is false. Around 90 percent of rapes occur by someone close to the survivor—an acquaintance, a friend or partner. Myth number two: survivors cannot be raped more than once. This, too, is false, especially since rape survivors are at least twice (and even as high as four times) more likely to be raped again, with people caught in a cycle of domestic violence often experiencing repeated rape. Myth three: rape is only rape when it’s violent. Only 10 percent of rapists use extreme force and/or a weapon. The fourth myth the students remarked on was the show’s notion that there is only one way to “get over” being raped: anger. There is no one or right way to cope with being assaulted; every victim is different, every victim wants and needs different things. Saying there is only one way to heal adds to the victim blaming that often occurs.

Although the students were upset with the episode’s myths, they did remark on its highlights. For instance, “SVU” did a good job of portraying that rape is not about sex, but instead about power and control (although “Confrontation” did say it was about power and rage, which perpetuates the image of rape as angry and violent). In addition, the episode did an excellent job of showing how under-reported rape is because of victim’s fear of not being believed. The episode even touched on victim blaming, showcasing that it is not always men who blame women (who are the primary victims) for the rape. That said, students were upset that victim-blaming occurred in the first place.

Stalking was another crime featured in the episode. Students remarked that it was barely touched on, and even though it occurred, it was sensationalized and suggested that all stalkers are psychopaths. This is a falsehood some people would like viewers to believe, when in fact more than 75 percent of victims are stalked by someone they know, while 30 percent of victims are stalked by current or former intimate partners.

By portraying rape and stalking in sensationalized ways, the media perpetuates myths and stereotypes about these two topics. This is not to say that all media does this, and therefore that media is bad. However, one needs to use a critical eye and hear when the media talks about said issues; enabling stereotypes only covers up the reality.

-Cara Dorzok

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Men needed to win fight against domestic violence

There are countless stereotypes associated with domestic violence, but one of the most common has to be that it is a crime solely perpetrated against women. While there is some merit to this thought, it is not completely true. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 73 percent of domestic violence victims are female. Of course, this means that 27 percent are male, and yet when people think about domestic violence, the image of a strong man beating up a weak woman is typically what comes to mind.

This notion yields a negative consequence: By suggesting that women are the only victims of domestic abuse, society believes it is women’s problem to solve. Hopefully people realize this isn’t true, but the stereotype has sunk in enough that there is a noticeable gap in the number of women and number of men actively volunteering in victim advocacy and violence prevention.

At Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment (PAVE), men are some of our most vital volunteers. In our commitment to educate the campus about the realities of domestic/dating violence, our male volunteers often take a leading role, writing editorials or leading a class that delves into the specifics of such crimes. I’ve witnessed firsthand that the difference men can make is profound, yet there is a gap in the gender of our volunteers.

There are a number of possible reasons for this. Social connotations are definitely one of them. Contrary to what some people may feel, it is not sissy or feminine to work for an organization like PAVE. After all, isn’t the idea of men protecting women a theme we constantly see in the media? This is not to say men should be the shields protecting women, but they can most certainly stand by women’s sides and help to end the suffering.

Another stereotype preventing male participation is the belief that their help isn’t welcome, that a man’s involvement is a perpetrator’s involvement. This is simply not true. It is no more fair to men that they are constantly labeled abusers than it is to women that they are constantly labeled victims.

People like to think in black and white, but for most situations, including this one, narrow definitions don’t fit. We know the vast majority of men are anti-violence and don’t practice it in their relationships. This routine awareness could be channeled into violence prevention, but because of these labels, it rarely is.

Perhaps the ultimate reason men (and women, for that matter) are hesitant to be active in this endeavor is because the task of eliminating violence is daunting. Tapping someone on the shoulder and saying, “Psst, don’t hit your partner!” rarely yields the effects we would like, and when your gender has been stereotyped as abusive, it can be easiest to just ignore the situation. When this holds true, it is best to start with an approachable and doable first step.

This is what Ben Atherton-Zeman does. For a crime that can feel so massive, Ben narrows domestic violence down to what someone at UW-Madison might see or experience. Taking situations that are far too familiar, Ben dissects the ways victims and those around them may react when confronted with the reality of dating violence.

He also touches on the imperfect system of support most victims encounter when seeking both personal and legal help. All of this is meant to shed light on an often-silenced issue and encourage people to do something about it.

None of this is meant to imply that if you don’t get involved with violence prevention you’re ignorant or don’t care about these issues. That’s obviously not true. And while we at PAVE would love nothing more than to see some smiling male faces in our office making buttons or at our events, we’d also be satisfied with knowing men are out there recognizing what the problem is and doing what they can in their everyday lives to make sure it doesn’t happen.

This general awareness and casual advocacy is what Ben’s message gets at. He’s not looking to create the next male head of PAVE, but rather day-to-day activists who speak up when they hear a wife-beating joke, intervene when they see an argument turn physical and support a victim when one comes to him for help. This widespread consciousness is what will ultimately eradicate domestic violence.

-Jacqueline O'Reilly

(as published in the Badger Herald on February 9, 2011)