WISE Words Blog

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  • 24 Apr 2014 3:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    WISE was once again asked to speak at Dartmouth's Take Back the Night. Here's the speech:

    Hi Everyone, I’m Kate, I’m the Program Director at WISE which is the organization for the prevention of and response to domestic and sexual violence in the Upper Valley. We’re 24-hours and confidential for survivors and their supporters. Among all of the things that we do in the aftermath of violence, most important among them is listening.  We listen and we believe.  When it comes to sexual violence, too often we hear silence.

    Silence because survivors don’t know that what just happened to them is rape – or that what happened was even wrong.

    Silence from friends who don’t know what to say or what to believe.

    Silence because we’re not sure how people will react, or whether or not we’re amongst kindreds who will understand.

    Silence from systems that are called on to do better.

    And silence because the world doesn’t really want to listen. We don’t really want to hear what goes on behind closed doors. We don’t want to acknowledge that this is happening.

    The famous Judith Herman quote seems appropriate: “It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that you do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks you to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.”

    Action, engagement, and remembering when it’s really much more fun to just enjoy the sunshine and beautiful campus and you have a major exam coming up. Action, engagement and remembering are how we change the world. It is a luxury to remain ignorant and we can no longer afford the tragically high cost.  

    “The Reality of Sexual Assault in New Hampshire” is that only 3% of NH offenders were known to have been convicted or pled guilty.

    You’ve heard before that ~60% of sexual assaults go unreported. It’s actually 95% on college campuses .  And why should people report? Research from Marquette University found that young women experience so much sexual violence in their everyday lives – objectification, harassment, and abuse –that they think these things are normal . People don’t report because sexual violence is considered normal. Not just by survivors of it, but by their peers, and by the systems through which justice should be measured. 

    Women don’t report because they don’t want to be mean. I hear the term “ruined lives” thrown around a lot. The ruined lives of athletes and celebrities who are accused of rape and go on to win Heisman Trophies and make millions of dollars, the ruined lives of young men who videotaped gang rapes and the fear of ruining lives if we tell. Young women tell me they don’t want to ruin their rapist’s lives by reporting – because being asked to leave campus would be a punishment too cruel.

    Victims don’t report because they don’t know who to call or where to go. Everyone here should take out their phones and put the WISE crisis line number in: 1-866-348-WISE. WISE is completely confidential for survivors over 18. We can think through with you about what are your good options: whether its going to the hospital, reporting to the College or reporting to the police.  We will work with you to plan for your safety, and your life that comes next.  We will listen. 

    Here at Dartmouth - you have campus resources – Dick’s House and the Sexual Assault Prevention Program Coordinators and SAPAs, the CGSE and Safety and Security– you  are not alone.  You don’t have to figure out what to do alone.

    You’ve heard the pressure for survivors to speak up, and the incredibly brave individuals that do here tonight, at Speak Out, in the D and on Board at Baker. We are always asking survivors to speak up...to do it over and over again... to convince us that there’s a problem, BUT with caveats... what they were wearing? Were they careful with their drink?  If we demand for survivors to tell their stories, THEN we have to be willing to listen.  We can do that. 

    And the world needs to hear from victims and survivors. We must be a community unafraid to be bold and unflinching in the face of the terrible things that have been done to those we know and love.   Not listening doesn’t make what happened go away, it just makes it easier to perpetrate.  When we dismissing survivor’s experience as a misunderstanding, drunk awkward college sex, or none of our business, people get away with rape.

    In her report on the Persistent Problem of Campus Peer Sexual Violence,  Nancy Cantalupo simply and clearly said: “If the cycle is to be broken and the violence is to be ended, survivors need to report. Yet survivors cannot be expected to report unless they are treated better when they do.” That responsibility belongs to all of us. You and I have to be better.

    Thank you all for being here, and thank you for listening.  


    Justice Department, National Crime Victimization Survey: 2008-2012

    Fisher, Bonnie S., Francis T. Cullen, and Michael G. Turner. (2000). The Sexual Victimization of College Women. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice. Available at https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/182369.pdf.


    Nancy Cantalupo, “Burying Our Heads in the Sand: Lack of Knowledge, Knowledge Avoidance, and the

    Persistent Problem of Campus Peer Sexual Violence.” Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, Vo. 43, 2011.

    The Dartmouth article on the event. 

  • 27 Mar 2014 4:10 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

     Today’s decision in the Dartmouth rape trial of Parker Gilbert is devastating and there is no doubt that it sends a terrible message to survivors of sexual assault. Something has got to change if we can allow a man who has no relationship with the victim to violate her in her own bed and face no consequences.

     Our thoughts are primarily with the victim and her family tonight as they try and sort through all that has happened. The incredible bravery and courage she displayed throughout this grueling process is immeasurable. The amount of time and resources utilized by the defense to break her down is rarely exhibited in a case like this where so few facts are in question.  The prosecutors in this case should be commended for their principled and thorough handling of this case, despite how vastly out resourced they were.

     Both sides agreed that Mr. Gilbert and the victim were at best acquaintances; both sides agreed he entered her room uninvited that night, in a highly intoxicated state, and both sides agreed that he initiated sexual contact which included vaginal penetration with the victim while she was asleep.

     The issue at hand is that there needs to be a cultural shift in the understanding of what constitutes sexual assault as a crime, and the complexity of victims’ reactions after the assault. 

     It is extremely rare for the perpetrator of a sexual assault against an adult woman to ever see the inside of a jail cell, let alone a courtroom. In 2011, the Governor’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence released a report titled “The Reality of Sexual Assault in New Hampshire,” according to law enforcement data from 2006 - this report found only 3% of New Hampshire offenders were known to be convicted or pled guilty.

    The professionals interviewed in this report pointed to a systemic problem which is that as a whole our society endorses stereotypes about “real rape” versus “deserving victims.”  To understand the impact these myths have on the successful prosecution of sexual assault cases, it is necessary to acknowledge the myths themselves. General perceptions of what constitute “real rape” characterize the assault as an act of violent, forceful penetration committed by a stranger during a surprise attack while brandishing a weapon. Typically a “real” victim is portrayed as a morally upright woman who was sober and fought back against her perpetrator. These myths persist even though statistics show the majority of women are assaulted by someone they know, and that physical injury is not common in most sexual assaults.  The further away from a classic hypothetical victim a case is– the less likely the victim is to achieve justice.

     Jurors’ attitudes reflect public misperception of the reality of adult female sexual assault and thus make it difficult, if not impossible, to successfully prosecute these cases. Perhaps the biggest myth present in this case is that someone could stop a rape if they wanted to. The fact is that fear, threats, and physical brutality can immobilize anyone.

     We know that today’s decision will no doubt impact survivors’ decisions in reporting their crime. Ultimately it is up to each individual to decide the best way to heal in the face of what has happened to them. We encourage anyone who is in need of support after a sexual assault to contact their local crisis center and speak with a trained advocate.  Their information will remain confidential and our crisis line is available any time day or night. Statewide, the toll free number is 1-800-277-5570.  WISE’s toll free number is 1-866-348-WISE (9473). 

     While today’s verdict is no doubt a setback it is important to note that in New Hampshire there are many people at all different levels that are invested in making the system better for victims. We are going to review what happened in this case and see what we can learn for the future.   

  • 09 Oct 2013 2:34 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear President Phil Hanlon,

    I wanted to share with you some facts and thoughts about student life issues, partly to extend our brief discussion at the COP breakfast, partly in advance of Tuesday's COSL breakfast, and wholly as a colleague who cares about improving this (in many ways wonderful) institution. I attach some references that support much of what I say
    - as mathematicians, I am sure we both trust studies and data more than opinion and tradition.

    Firstly, I was glad to hear you mention the issue of campus sexual assault in your inaugural speech. I firmly believe that this will be one of the main issues that many university presidents will have to tackle head on, in a public way, in the coming decade. The rather intense last 18 months of campus discussion, from the Rolling Stone article of 2012 to the Bored@Baked scandal to the Day of Reconciliation this spring, has raised local and national awareness of
    this issue (and related ones such as hazing and homophobia) at Dartmouth, and there is now a window of opportunity to use this, and your arrival at the helm, for positive effect. This is a big and complex problem, but all the evidence points to Dartmouth being at the worse end of the national variation, and in dire need of some structural change.

    When I brought this up at the COP breakfast with you, a couple of days after the OCR initiated its own (unprecedented) Title IX investigation against Dartmouth, you brought up the reputation of recent consultant
    Jen Sayre (now Messina) '93, and her assurances that we are "leaders" on this issue. The evidence, from talking to students and faculty and hearing their experiences, as well as from academic research presented below, tells a different story. Environmental and cultural factors
    here contribute to increased sexual assault in ways that Messina's favored bystander intervention (DBI / Green Dot) misses, and cannot hope to fix alone. I encourage you also to seek advice from the many other faculty who have researched these issues - recently the voices of Hackett, Denton, Schweitzer, Luxon, Muirhead, and our WGST faculty, as well as student voices, have expressed what many colleagues and students feel: student life issues are a major down-side of Dartmouth existence, and need significant change (if nothing else, to remain nationally competitive).

    As you know, the national statistics are that by the end of college, one in four female students will have been victims of rape or attempted rape [Fisher 2000]. Rape often has a devastating long-term effect on a young woman's life and well-being, let alone education. College is not a "safe space" for women, the reason being in large part, rather shockingly, their fellow male students. I found the following facts even more eye-opening. They dispel some myth that are barriers to change:

    1) Rape is not a "he-said-she-said" situation; rather, only a few percent of rape claims are false [Lisak 2010]. Indeed, most victims don't report, for a variety of reasons including fear and social pressures [Fisher 2000]

    2) Rape is not an "occasional bad decision by otherwise good-natured guys". Most men (94%) don't rape. But 90% of rapes are committed by repeat offenders, who are often charming, unsuspected, known by the victim, and who have many victims [Lisak-Miller 2002].

    3) Alcohol is not a cause of rape; rather, alcohol (as well as other additives) is a *tool* of rapists. (It seems clear that Jim Kim failed to understand this point that cause and effect are reversed.) Therefore alcohol abuse reduction is not such a useful lever to reduce rape; direct action is needed.

    4) A large contributory factor to rape is *social status anxiety between men*, rather than merely desire for sex - therefore, disturbingly, rape is more common at highly elite and competitive institutions [Armstrong 2006]. We surely count as one of those.

    One positive point here (2) is that if a small number of male students could be removed from campus (which of course in our current system almost never happens), a large increase in safety would result.

    On a different axis, the structural/environment choices an institution makes about student residential life strongly affect behavior, in particular student safety. I found the following related facts fascinating:

    5) Students living in sororities are 3 times more likely to be raped while intoxicated than students living in standard off-campus housing, in a national study [Mohler-Kuo 2004]. Membership in a sorority alone is also a factor [Armstrong 2006]. This discredits a myth I hear that sororities are somehow safer for women.

    6) Fraternities are strongly associated with sexual assault [Tyler 1998, Armstrong 2006, Flack 2007, Sanday 1996]. There is plenty more research to cite on this point. However, occasional frats have rape- (also hazing-)free cultures [Sanday 1996].

    7) Gender-segregated housing leads to more dangerous behaviors (via status anxiety and competition) than gender-diverse housing [Armstrong 2006, Sanday 1996].

    The mechanisms for these cultural factors (4-7) are complex, but, whether causation or merely correlation is involved, the literature shows that gender-segregated or elitist (ie selective in a competitive fashion) residences and organizations - like many Greek houses - is a huge cause for concern if we indeed take sexual assault seriously. Discussion of the benefit of the continued dominance by
    Greek life must be on the table. Several New England colleges, realising that reform from within is not possible, have replaced Greek life with something more healthy in recent decades, and their reasons make for good reading. I quote the 1962 report from Williams College:
    "Fraternities at Williams have come to exercise a disproportionate role in undergraduate life, and as a result the *primary educational purposes* of the College are not being fully realized" (my emphasis added). At least we have to reverse our current practice of building more sororities and replace this with something safer for students. Despite a 60-70% Greek membership at Dartmouth, I believe only 10% of our undergraduates live in Greek houses: rehousing them is hardly an insurmountable challenge. Finally, the Student Life Initiative (SLI)
    report of 2000 is very instructive reading; it has a good summary of residential issues here. To my knowledge none of the recommendations were carried out (this was before my time), yet seasoned faculty will tell you that the situation has only gotten worse.

    The above facts 1-7 lead rather directly to some suggestions: (obviously colored by my personal observations, and in no particular order)

    a) Transition to co-ed housing and remove gender-segregated housing, since the latter is, despite heresay, in fact more dangerous than the former.

    b) Implement improvements to residential life proposed in the SLI 2000 report. This includes building East-Wheelock-style academic clusters (or, maybe, Oxbridge-style houses) rather than Greek houses, and creating a much stronger College-funded social and cultural student-run scene to provide viable alternatives to Greek life (Collis basement and the like is not enough for 5000 students). The latter
    could include party, dance, and music spaces, and Hopkins Center programming that is actually relevant to students (currently there is little). We need to learn from other institutions here about creating super student-run events that are as fun as a frat party but more accountable and less private.

    c) Invest in implementing an in-house investigative unit of crime professionals who identify student rapists, as [Lisak 2002] suggests. This unit would piece together evidence from multiple students to identify repeat rapists and increase their chances of expulsion (currently I believe the COS process explicitly doesn't take into account such evidence from other incidents).

    d) Re-fund and re-support a strong women's center. The Center for Women and Gender has been disempowered over recent years, renamed into the Center for Gender & Student Engagement, and is now headed by a man, and gave its award to a man this year. It is not surprising that
    female undergraduates feel disempowered. Returning to something akin to the CWG is preferable to the current trend to the "health-centered" approach, which guides students to self-care and medication rather than organization and action.

    e) Follow the Clery law, which states that when crimes occur, an alert has to go out to the campus community. For example, in 2011 our Clery statistics list that 12 rapes occurred (of course this is only about 10% of the number which occurred). We did not get 12 emails to this effect: we got zero, as in every other year. In the last few months,
    with increased scrutiny and Title IX underway, we got two.

    f) Rape cases should to be handled by the Hanover police rather than internally. It is my understanding that rapists, especially those from powerful families, tend to be protected by the college (as well as "lawyered-up") rather than held accountable. Victims get zero legal support, often have to face their rapists in class, and are generally encouraged by the Deans to "disappear" (take medical leave); rapists remain on campus.

    g) Support and grow the initiatives of our own staff and Deans (obviously the DBI is part of a solution), but also bring in an external commission with credentials (I would include Lisak, for instance) to make recommendations, and heed them even if there i local opposition. I have also heard about the idea of a national summit on this issue hosted here - I would recommend supporting and funding this.

    h) Help change the culture of Dartmouth students and administrators by keeping the issue of accountability for sexual predators forefront in your public appearances, and admitting we have a problem. When Charles Vest admitted that MIT had a sexism problem in its faculty, that was a brave step that was essential to moving forward. Although student groups can push for change, major change cannot come from below since students are here for such a short period: it has to come from the top.

    i) Not to treat this issue merely as an "image problem": it is a real problem, and Dartmouth's all-important image may have to take second place to the safety of our students for a transition period. In fact, we are to expect an *increase* in reports of rape initially when an institution changes for the better, because victims become more empowered to report. We have to weather that for the long-term good.

    It seems that, as a wealthy private institution with student safety in mind, it is inconceivable that we don't have the power to fix some of the injustice of rape (and the related hazing) on our campus. If we somehow do not have this power (certain forces are opposed to change), naming and discussing these obstructions is essential. We cannot put
    all our faith in bystander intervention. I hope the above helps give you some more tools to take strong leadership in this direction. You will certainly have the support of a large part of the faculty behind you.

    Thanks for listening, and keep up the good work.

    Yours sincerely, Alex Barnett

    References (some attached; please let me know if you need more):

    Fisher, Cullen and Turner, "The Sexual Victimization of College Women" NIJ report (2000).

    Lisak et al (2010). Violence Against Women, 16(12) 1318­1334.

    Lisak, D. & Miller, P. M. (2002). Repeat rape and multiple offending among undetected rapists. Violence and Victims, 17, 73-84.

    E. A. Armstrong et al (2006). "Sexual Assault on Campus: A Multilevel, Integrative Approach to Party Rape". Social Problems, Vol. 53, Issue 4, pp. 483–499

    Sanday, P. (1996). "Rape-Prone Versus Rape-Free Campus Cultures", Violence Against Women 2(2), 191-208.

    Shapiro (2010). "Myths That Make It Hard To Stop Campus Rape", NPR story. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124272157

    Mohler-Kuo, M., G. Dowdall, M. Koss, and H. Wechsler. "Correlates of Rape While Intoxicated in a National Sample of College Women." Journal of
    Studies on Alcohol. 65. (2004): 37-45.

    Tyler, K.A., D.R. Hoyt and L.B. Whitbeck. (1998). “Coercive Sexual Strategies,” Violence and Victims, 13(1), 47-61.

    Flack. W.F, et al (2007). J. Interpersonal Violence. 22(2), 139-157. "Risk factors and consequences of unwanted sex among university students".

  • 26 Apr 2013 8:23 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Last night Dartmouth hosted an annual rally called Take Back the Night. The idea is that women for so long have been told not to go out alone at night (along with so many other "helpful tips) in order to avoid being raped. The rally and march demands that the world must be safe for women, not that women must become accustomed to being unsafe in the world. WISE was asked to speak as part of the opening remarks. It was an honor to be among students and survivors who were so moving and inspiring - not just in words but in the lives that they've lived to improve our community. Below are Kate's remarks.

    My name is Kate, I’m the Program Manager at WISE which is the organization tasked with ending domestic and sexual violence in the UV. I’ve worked on the prevention of violence against women for the entirety of my adult life, almost by accident. Which means that I believe fundamentally in two things:

    • 1.       That domestic and sexual violence are preventable – that they don’t just happen but are enacted by one person onto another.
    • 2.       That I can do something about it.

    The first is something that really challenges us. If DV/SV is something that people are choosing to do, then the people who are accused that we care about in our community are people who are choosing to perpetrate. That is sad and scary and hurtful. Sometimes disbelief is more comfortable. But it’s also paramount to my believing that I haven’t wasted my youth. DV/SV is preventable. It isn’t about testosterone, it isn’t about caveman brains – it isn’t men – it is all of us who are complicit in separating us and them. All of us who buy into some people being more valuable than others. Who expect men to be men and the definition of manhood that includes power, control and violence. DV/SV is preventable when men are recognized as human beings – not the titans of power, but people with emotions that are mentionable and manageable, with empathy, and personal accountability. DV/SV is preventable when women are recognized as human beings – not the sum of their naked and hairless body parts, but people in full autonomy of their physical and relational selves.

    The second is something that people are curious about. Most people assume I’m a victim. Why else would I be so devoted to such a sad topic. My plan was to be a DJ on the radio – spend my working life at concerts and never again suffer through someone else’s crappy music. Instead every piece of my collegiate career kept nagging that something isn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that my mom worried when I walk home from work at night (trying to keep those student loans down). It wasn’t fair that when I was drugged (despite my drink being fully in my hand at all time, despite my multiple buddies) my dad chalked it up to my confusing drunk with drugged. It isn’t fair that I have to make those disclaimers. It isn’t fair that politicians are making laws about my life and body – specifically my vagina - without including anyone who has a vagina, or allowing the word vagina to be mentioned. It isn’t fair that 60% of women and families who are homeless are a result of DV, or that a byproduct of being a woman going to college is the expectation that eventually you’ll probably be raped. It isn’t fair that we would rather talk about anything – alcohol, hazing, bullying, cancer, hunger – other than the violence that is so intimately connected to every person’s life. It isn’t fair that so many people I care about are being violated but didn’t feel like they could tell anyone because they were afraid or ashamed. It isn’t fair that my male friends don’t feel like they can ask their partners what they want or like or need because vulnerability is a fate worse than death.

    I do this work because people are suffering and if I can help, I have to. For me it boils down to injustice. You recognize that it is not fair that we have to march days after campus is shut down because highlighting this injustice still puts people at risk of physical harm. You believe that we can do better. And you are. You’re doing better. So thank you, and thanks for being here. 

  • 20 Feb 2013 4:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    So often we are reminded of what an amazing community we’re a part of. Hearing the many complicated stories of domestic/dating/sexual violence and stalking may seem like a completely depressing day job, but instead we get to see all of the beautiful, creative ways that individuals and families overcome and thrive. We get to work in a community with organizations that recognize the truth that each of us – whatever our strengths or interests – has a part to play to end violence, share hope, change lives. Organizations that provide material assistance to survivors, train their employees about prevention and empathetic responses to survivors, display materials…all of us can use our talents to support survivors.

    RVC is stepping up in March by hosting a Spinathon to benefit WISE! You can sweat your way to a more peaceful Upper Valley, and here’s how:

    • Register your team by 3/20
    • Gather supporters to pledge to your race with this sign up
    • Maybe take a few practice spins on the stationary bike
    • Then on 3/23 we ride!

    More information here on the brochure (including proper pacing, nutrition, and hydration!)

  • 01 Feb 2013 12:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Between the over covered story of Notre Dame Football Player, Manti Te’o, various blog posts and opinions examining our current dating practices and the new MTV show Catfish that explores the intricacies of online relationships, it seems like everyone is talking about digital relationships! It adds so many possibilities to how we think about, define and engage in relationships, both intimate and not.

    One of the most (personally) frustrating reactions to the Te’o story was people’s inability to imagine being in an exclusively online relationship. As if intimacy, companionship and love only exist within physical relationships. Isn’t it possible for us to feel incredibly close and deeply connected to someone whom we’ve never been physically intimate with or whom we’ve never met in person? On a recent episode of Catfish, Matt and Kim’s relationship demonstrates exactly that.  The two had been communicating with each other via (solely) technology for ten years. They spoke to each other either through text messaging, Facebook, emails or phone conversations almost every day. Kim explained that Matt was the person that provided her with the greatest comfort and support during the most difficult times in her life. They make each other laugh and have developed a strong and caring partnership which they both depend on. Now that she has a boyfriend whom she is living with and considering marrying, Kim is feeling conflicted about these two relationships. Can she love them both? Can she participate in a respectful, loving marriage with her boyfriend and continue the relationship she’s had with Matt for the past 10 years, or does she have to choose between the two?

    I think we can, and should have many meaningful relationships with many people who collectively fulfill our complex and diverse needs of affection, solidarity and friendship. Culturally we have a pretty singular view of what the parameters of romantic and intimate relationships are supposed to look like, but as with all other assumed cultural expectations, one size does not fit all. We can’t just assume that everybody is going to find one (THE ONE) person capable of providing everything that they could ever want and need out of a confidante. It feels like an unfair expectation for everyone. Instead let’s expand on our ideas of intimate relationships and modify our relationship boundaries to meet OUR and our partner’s needs.

    How do you define a partner? Is it someone that you talk to everyday? Live with? Have a sexual or physical relationship with? Can you have only one? It’s up to YOU to define what you want in a partner, or partners, to communicate those needs to the prospective partners that come in and out of your life, and respect those that are communicated to you.  You and your partner(s) are able to have ongoing conversations around the expectations of your relationships and don’t have to depend on rigid social norms that may or may not be appropriate for you. We can create a life for ourselves that is full of thoughtful, respectful and healthy relationships of all sorts.

    If you want to continue the conversation around healthy relationships invite WISE to your organization, school or community group for a tailored presentation!

    If you or someone you know is in an unsafe relationship and would like support you can contact WISE, 24 hours a day at 1/866.348.WISE. 

  • 16 Jan 2013 4:26 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    ‘Facebook stalking’ has become a phrase that most of us use pretty often and with some familiarity. Maybe you’ve ‘Facebook stalked’ an old boyfriend or girlfriend or that friend you haven’t seen since high school. But what does the word, stalking, really mean? Am I really stalking someone by viewing a profile that I was invited to via friend request, a profile that displays information that the person is choosing to share with their collective group of Facebook friends? The answer is no. There is a big difference between viewing a friend’s Facebook profile and actual stalking behaviors, and aligning the two as having the same meaning is harmful for actual victims of stalking. Stalking is a very real, dangerous and often life threatening experience. Conflating actual stalking with this false idea of ‘Facebook stalking’ minimizes the terrifying existence of the 6.6 million Americans who are stalked annually. 

    It’s not to say that Facebook and stalking have no relation to each other. As with most anything in this world, it has the potential and capability to be dangerously misused. A stalker may dishonestly use Facebook as a tool to gain access to their victim that they haven’t otherwise been admitted to. An abusive partner may use Facebook, and other various devices, to keep constant tabs on their victim.   But the impact of these experiences is incredibly different than that of which we so offhandedly refer to as, ‘Facebook stalking’. This might not seem like a big deal, but improperly and reductively using the term creates a mask for those who are actually stalking someone.

    The only people at fault in stalking situations are the perpetrators, but there are a few technology practices that can help reduce people’s access to us. We can be cautious of who we accept into our internet social lives, do our best to have secure Facebook privacy settings and be informative about how to keep our exposed selves protected from the possible dangerous outcomes of technology use.

    We can also be more thoughtful about our choice of language when talking about how we view our Facebook friend’s profiles and take actual accounts of stalking seriously. If you or someone you know is being stalked you can reach out to WISE for support, 24 hours a day.
  • 13 Jul 2012 10:10 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    A woman blogged about her experience at a Daniel Tosh show.
    "Tosh starts making some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious, etc...So I yelled out, 'Actually, rape jokes are never funny!' Tosh paused for a moment. Then, he says, 'Wouldn't it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her...'". 

    Jessica Valenti argues at the Nation that rape jokes can be funny, but not if they are threatening. (I disagree about Sarah Silverman's joke, but agree about Sykes and Carlin - because they are not so much rape jokes, as pointing out the absurdity of victim blaming). 

    Also at the Nation, Katie Halper provides a twitter review of comics' responses. 

    Elissa Bassist  at the Daily Beast talks about power in the ways we use humor to talk about rape, 
    "The debate over Tosh shouldn’t be “are 
    rape jokes funny?” That’s misdirection: his statement was a wildly inappropriate putdown, reminder, and threat that this woman could be gang-raped, like right now." 
    A comedian in Austin makes maybe the most apropos metaphor so far? And clarifies why "offended" isn't what people are. *Warning for a pretty graphic metaphor and strong language.*    
    "Offended hasn't got anything to do with it.

    People have wounds, and those wounds are painful. That doesn't have s*** to do with the weak concept of "taking offense." If someone talks about Texas being a s****y state, I might "take offense" at that. Fine, whatever. All of us who like comedy are generally in agreement with the idea that "taking offense" is lame, and a comedian should be willing to "offend" whenever he or she wants to.

    But causing pain is quite a different matter. Your job as a comedian is to take us through pain, transcend pain, transform pain. And if you don't get that, you are a bully, and I've got zero time for bullies."

    Melissa Harris-Perry invited comics to a round table panel

    Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

  • 20 Mar 2012 2:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    I posted this response (*some language at the link) to an advice column on our facebook page, but wanted to highlight this response from the comments. While there was so much in the "advice" that was harmful and ignorant, this sentiment is something that comes up often, and is a classic example of how the way we talk about relationships generally can radically affect a victim's perception of her options (or lack thereof). 

    Most men are not abusive! And we don't want to believe that some men we know might be. Those that are think that their actions are normal an acceptable because we - in advice columns! - excuse and justify their behaviors for them. This not only perpetuates the abuse in that relationship, it sets a disrespectfully low bar for those many many men who are thoughtful and caring and treat other human beings with kindness and compassion. We need to stop allowing abuse to look like a normal behavior. We need to stop the idea that a bad relationship is better than no relationship. And we need to think about how our "advice" sets the tone for so much more than we may have intended. Dani, below, says it perfectly.

    Dani Alexis 3.9.2012 at 12:42 pm | 

    It’s not like there are a million really great men out there; it’s not like she can just go and pick one and be off to her perfect life.

    I stayed with an abuser for seven years on the basis of such pearls of wisdom as this comment. Then I left him, and I learned that actually, yes, it is like that.

    As in, it is like there are LITERALLY ONE MILLION men (or more) out there who will not threaten violence, freak out when you have your own friends and interests, or have a screaming match in front of your apartment building when you say “look, I need to try something else.” It is ABSOLUTELY LIKE this woman can find someone to date who will not send up even a single one of the red flags this LW is rolling in right now. Decent human beings really are A Real Thing in the World!

    (Granted, not all of those people will be this woman’s cup of tea – but I’d bet my hat that at least ONE of the literally a million or more men who will treat this woman with basic human respect will also be someone she could see herself marrying, if that’s what she wants.)

  • 13 Mar 2012 2:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    There have been a number of examples I've come across recently using social media to share stories which are often silenced and illuminate some solidarity for the MANY women, children and men who have been affected by sexual violence. 

    While they are sad and tragic and touching, I also am finding inspiration - that people are sharing, people are listening, and people are dedicated to confronting something terrible which exists, and which we have the power to end. Let's do that. But first we have to listen and believe:

    Twitter #ididnotreport, #ididntreport, #webelieveyou

    And Project Unbreakable where a photography student is asking survivors to write what their perpetrator said during the assault and photographing them. 

    People want to share their stories but are all too often silenced - sometimes by the perpetrator, often by a society that doesn't want to hear it. Doesn't want to believe it. Doesn't want to know. We need to take as our task the responsibility to be safe people. To listen, believe, and support survivors. To make it safe for them to report, to hold perpetrators accountable, and to end violence. 
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The mission of WISE is to empower victims of domestic and sexual violence and stalking to become safe and self-reliant through crisis intervention and support services. WISE advances social justice through community education, training and public policy.

WISE provides services to victims/survivors of sexual violence, domestic violence and stalking regardless of gender or gender identity/expression, age, health status (including HIV-positive), physical, mental or emotional ability, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, race, national origin, immigration status, or religious or political affiliation.

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