The Jamie Lynn Spears' official announcement she is pregnant is bringing up conversations about the legal age of consent for sexual activity. From the Genarlow Wilson case in Georgia earlier this year to now the pregnancy of 16 year old Jamie Lynn Spears, our country needs to take a sincere look at consent and society's current approach to sexual education in our schools and in our homes. From teachers to parents, direct conversations are needed with pre-teens and teenagers.
The entire concept of "consent" is constantly misunderstood. In reporting of pregnancies involving minors, the media often says "consensual sex among minors." When a state has laws stating a minor cannot give consent with a partner of a specific age, the media needs to use the following wording instead, "mutually agreed upon sex." The failure to use the correct wording leads to students and overall society responding with, "How can consensual sex be rape?" Consent is a LEGAL term.
Here is where the problem begins. How many teenagers actually have MUTUALLY AGREED UPON sexual activity? For the sexual activity to be "Mutually Agreed Upon," it would demand two people agreeing together - A CONVERSATION (No, not a contract. Two people talking with each other). However, we know most teenagers do not openly discuss their sexual activity with their partner until they are already at the point of being uncomfortable OR until after the act has already been done OR or not at all.
In speaking in high schools, students continually tell us that if they TALKED FIRST, it would slow down the speed at which the sexual activity is taking place AND often stop it from happening at all. By talking first, they would frequently find the conversation uncomfortable which would be a telling sign one of the two people (if not both) is not mature enough and/or comfortable enough in the sexual situation that is about to occur! Teaching consent the correct way helps increase abstinence and better protects today's teeangers.
Michael Vick, former quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League (NFL), should be condemned for the horrific actions he and others took against dogs. His behavior and actions were atrocious. The media jumped all over this case and the country rightfully so came to the defense of the dogs (many of which will end being killed).
The hypocrisy lies with the media and our general society. While everyone is yelling for Michael Vick to be put in prison and immediately kicked out of the NFL (by the way, I agree with those requests), where are all the people yelling for EVERY player in the NFL charged with Domestic Violence to be suspended (if convicted, then kicked out of the league)? Yes, animals need to be protected. Of course. What about women? You have these incredible physical specimens of athletes committing acts of violence against women. These charges are so common nowadays that they are just a quick news bit on ESPN and other sports segments. When players are charged or convicted, where is all the media covering the case and every possible jail sentence for the player (as they've done with Michael Vick)?
The NFL and almost every major professional league has seen numerous players charged with domestic violence. Where is the media doing an in-depth story on how few professional athletes get actual convictions compared to the rest of society? I am not insinuating that the majority of athletes behave in this manner. It doesn't matter. These leagues like to portray an image of caring (look at their commericals showing their players doing good in the community). If they TRULY CARE, have a zero tolerance for violence against ANY person or animal. If any player is convicted, the player should be immediately kicked out of the league indefinitely.
Do people deserve 2nd chances? Yes. We all make mistakes. A second chance is what YOU choose to do with your life after making a mistake. It does not mean getting your job back. Typically, a second chance means starting over and learning from your mistake.
As I said last night, I love what I do and today was another fun day on the road. Starting at Union College, I got to see Matt Milless who is a member of my Advisory Council for The Date Safe Project. Matt always comes out to my program and shows great support. Kari made sure everything was taken care of for the program. Marcus is the new person in charge of Counseling at Union and he came out to be there for the students.
Next was Western Connecticut State University. Dean Walter Smith worked hard with Sharon Guck to insure they got me back to campus after speaking there last Spring. The passion in both of them is inspiring. They are sooo excited to get this message out to their students. You completely understand why they are both in jobs working closely with students! The above pictures are from the Western Connecticut State University presentation. Thanks, Dorota for sending the pictures.
As Labor Day officially began at 12 midnight, I found myself working on my computer in a hotel room in Albany, NY. I chose to celebrate Labor Day by working.
Have you ever heard someone say, "Oh, you HAVE to work today?" like working is a bummer? I enjoy my work. In fact, I look forward to it every day. YEA TO LABOR DAY! Later today, I speak at Union College and then at Western Connecticut State University.
Today was a special day - the day I return to my hometown and my college alma mater, the Univesity of Wisconsin at Whitewater. The first presentation to over 800 incoming students included some special guests: my sister, her son, her daughter, my 2 oldest sons, my wife, my Dad, my brother-in-law, and Beth (our internet guru here at The Date Safe Project). With people you know and care about, you always get a little extra energy before speaking. Plus, you are speaking to the school that means so much to you. The woman introducing me was Marilyn Kile, the head of our Peer Education Team back when I was in school. She is a wonderful person and a dynamic professional.
Both audiences today were full of spunk. At one point, guys jumped up and high-fived each other over a concept we were teaching. Afterward, they had an organization fair at the fieldhouse. The campus gives us a table at the fair each year to meet and talk with the students. My sister, Cheri, who is a survivor of sexual assault (and is one of the contributing authors to Voices of Courage) was able to attend this year. Watching students go up to Cheri and tell her how honored they are to meet her is inspiring for me, especially when some of those students are survivors themselves.
The day ended with 11 of us going to dinner and simply enjoying the time together!! After I had been in 10 cities in the past 8 days, a dinner with family and friends was truly appreciated.
What a drive. From Albany to Canton, NY, you experience a beautiful journey through the Adirondack Mountains (including going through Lake Placid, NY). The mountains went forever with sporadic points of special beauty, including lakes in the middle of the range. Gorgeous. At the end of the 4 hour drive, I arrived in Canton to speak at St. Lawrence University.
Each year at St. Lawrence, my day starts having a dinner with male student leaders from campus. The men on this campus have taken sexual assault awareness as an important issue to address. 2 Groups lead the way. ATO Greek House and MAASV (Male Athletes Against Sexual Violence). Both sets of men are doing fantastic work. From hosting a "Pledge to Protect" party at the ATO House to MAASV putting on a special White Ribbon Campaign Event. The MAASV White Ribbon Campaign program was completely interactive with real-life scenarios played out and then "referrees" throwing flags at inappropriate behavior in the role-plays. Next, you discuss the inappropriate behavior and then you SHOW an appropriate way to have handled the situation. As the dinner was winding down, the founder of MAASV, Rich, informed me how part of the concept was inspired from his freshman year watching my program. I am honored, Rich!! Thank you. The MAASV student leaders introduced me throughout the night (you can see them in the attached pictures).
Onto the program. The house was packed. You could hear the energy of the theatre 10 minutes before start time. Right from the beginning, students were cheering, laughing, and having lots of fun. Within a few minutes, you knew this was a special night. Both sessions (7pm and 9pm) were interactive, respectful, and very responsive. This group wanted the "Want Some Action?" shirts!! By the end of the first program, we were out of almost every size shirt (and we still had the 9pm program coming up). Hearing back from St. Lawrence in a few months is going to be fun. With the shirts being worn around campus, you typically get great opportunities for change to occur throughout the year!
On a sad night, Kate McCaffrey is leaving St. Lawrence. Kate has been bringing me to campus for 4 years and has run some sensational programming for the campus. She will be missed by all. We wish her the greatest of success in her new endeavors and hope to see her down-the-road! Amanda is taking over Kate's responsibilities and we look forward to working with her. Katie was a huge help tonight. If you ever need someone to support you after you just got done speaking (handling students; helping with the educational resources; and much more), Katie is your person. Thanks, Katie.
Typically, this time of the year (Welcome Week, Orientation, etc...), most of the students coming to my program are mandated to attend. Clearly, mandating draws great audiences and works very well.
Not all schools are able to mandate. SUNY - Albany did not mandate and still drew an incredible audience last night. On only their 2nd night of school (with no mandated attendance at all), near 1,000 students came out to the program. These students showed up with extremely high levels of energy and participation!!
A great deal of credit goes to Julie Heslin-Pokat and all of her colleagues (especially Carol and Amy). You can see Julie starting off the show in this picture. They worked hard to utilize the "Do You Ask?" posters. Plus, they chose the one promotional choice that almost guarantees excitement and high attendance -- FREE SHIRTS for the first students in attendance. Since this was 2 separate presentations, they split the number of shirts in half and gave them away at each program. Students were at the Theatre over 1 hour before the program was suppose to start!!
By the way, in a month SUNY-Albany's counseling center is sponsoring a campus 5K run in conjunction with the NYSCASA (New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault). This is a fantastic way for a campus to help their entire state and show how much they care about addressing sexual assault awareness!!
Tonight, my program was at Brandeis University. As I travel to various campuses, I get to meet student leaders from all walks of life. Rarely have I met so many students who were proud of their university and excited to be part of a special process for the incoming students. This team of leaders who I got to have dinner with was amazing. Every word was positive. Their faces lit up as they talked about their campus. I was already looking forward to the speech. Now I couldn't wait.
We entered the Theatre. The setting was perfect. The room sat 800 and you felt like it was 200 (very cozy and intimate which is exactly what I like). When we got started, the students got rolling. The crowd asked lots of questions throughout the progam ("what if . . ."; "what about . . ."; "my boyfriend . . ."). All of the questions were genuine students looking for answers. We addressed each question as the night progressed. The students were engaged and thinking. Their response at the end was overwhelming!
A special thanks goes out to Nikki and her fellow student leaders. Wow! You all have a phenomenal presences about you. Thanks for spreading your positive energy to others.
Yesterday, I finished speaking at Neumann College in Philadelphia mid-afternoon and was able to catch an early evening flight to Boston for tonight's speech at Brandeis University. The result was me having most of the day open today in Boston. My dear friend, Karen Brady, came to visit me from Providence. Karen has been a blessing in my family's life for over 8 years. She had never been on the ocean and so we went Whale Watching. The 3 hours was a blast, especially trying to do goofy moves into the wind on top deck of the boat (we could barely stay standing at times). Here is a picture of Karen in the forefront with the whales behind her. She stayed with me all through the day and then came to hear me speak at Brandeis. She even stuck around afterwards and got a bite to eat with me at my hotel. Thank you, Karen, for being such a dear friend!!
As I arrived at Neumann College, all the incoming students were listening to the Dean of Student Life. After he spoke, Sister Marguerite spoke next and talked to the students about self-respect and making good choices (being good people). Next was my turn. The students were a great group!
Afterward, the President came up to me and thanked me for speaking. I am always honored when the head of a campus comes to listen to my program. We had a nice conversation. Then, Sister Marguerite spoke to me. One of the most common questions I receive about my speaking is, "How do spiritual leaders respond to your program on intimacy and sexuality?" Sister Marguerite was a delight. As we both talked to the students, her and I were making similiar points -- simply using different methods and approaches. We had a great conversation.
Of course, a big THANK YOU goes out to Megan Camp. She makes visiting Neumann a super experience. From helping me get through some rough traffic to making sure everything was ready beforehand, she smoothly handles it all!! Thanks, Megan.
Today, I was speaking to all the incoming students at John Carroll University (OH). After speaking, I normally start receiving e-mails from students a few hours later. Today, the John Carroll students were e-mailing and sharing their thoughts and comments within one hour of my program ending. A few of the new students were already talking about joining the groups on campus dedicated to reducing sexual assault. YEA!!
At John Carroll, the staff and administration are dedicated to addressing sexual assault awareness. Ryan Knott, the Coordinator for Developmental Programming, does a great job of making these days run smoothly. He is very nice and helpful. In addition to Ryan's support, Dr. Sherri Crahen (Dean of Students) is continually involved. On many campuses, the Dean does not come out for these speeches. Sherri is always there when I am speaking and takes the time to stop and talk. Her time is greatly appreciated.
Right now, I am in the beginning stages of my longest, consecutive run of schools for this Fall. The non-stop travel and speaking to students from all over the country is lots of fun. Of course, I miss my 4 boys and wife.
Thursday was the start with Marywood University in Scranton, PA. A.J. picked me up from the airport. He is the perfect host. Energetic, easy going, and gives you all the information you need. At 5pm, we had dinner with the Peers on Wellness group on campus. They are a dedicated team of students working hard to make a positive difference in the lives of the students on their campus. Throughout the dinner talk, they asked insightful questions about how to be most effective in peer education. You could sense their passion for wanting to be the best they can be. Then it was right to the main presentation of "Can I Kiss You?" Fun and lively is the best way to describe their incoming class which is the largest class they have ever had!
Staying on the theme of largest incoming class ever, my next stop was Northwest Missouri State University who also has their largest incoming class ever. Every year this stop is fun. They have me present 2 sessions of "Can I Kiss You?" to over 800 students in each session (they cannot fit all the students into the auditorium at once and so they split them up). Right from the start, the audiences were fantastic!! You could tell they were ready to get involved and they did!
The biggest honor for me has been the e-mails coming in from survivors who were in the audiences. Their words are empowering and inspiring. Every time I receive an e-mail from a survivor, I am honored! No applause can ever equal the power of a single e-mail sharing with you a person's strength and determination.
When someone says something that you vehemently disagree with, at what point do you stop listening? Our "Talk Show" society has a track record of "cutting off" people in mid sentence. The person is not even close to finishing an explanation of an approach and the "host" interupts. What kind of a "host" is your brain to new or differing ideas?
This past summer at a national convention, a keynote speaker told the audience organized religion was one of the three major downfalls to prosperity in the world. As the words left his mouth, you heard the room gasp. Personally I believe in spirituality. I did not gasp. I wanted to hear his explanation. I wanted to understand where he was coming from. What made him have this belief? As I listened, I heard a very spiritual man who had concerns of how religion has been used by some to manipulate individuals and keep others feeling constantly judged and guilty. He went on to say how many of the books religions are based on are extremely uplifting and prosperous books. He shared how the leaders those books are based on were people of great belief in others. Clearly, this was was not a man who did not believe in religion. He simply disagreed with how some people within a religion use faith improperly. Was his initial statement potentially exagerated? That answer depends on your personal views.
As I walked out of the room he spoke in, you could hear people complaining about the speech. "Can you believe he said that?" Other individuals seemed to be boiling mad that the conference allowed him to give that speech. By the way, the audience was speakers. Wouldn't you think we'd be open to hearing a different viewpoint? Often we ask our audiences to do the same. By the end of the day, the reactions appeared to be 50/50. The split was not about whether you agreed with him. The split was whether you are were upset with him or not. The interesting part was how many people on the "50" who felt negatively about his speech did not hear anything he said after the initial statement. By closely listening to a few of these people, it was clear many had shut down. They did stop listening. They missed a very engaging talk.
How often do all of us do this in our professional or personal lives? Someone starts talking who has an extremely different view than us and we take the "Here HE goes" or "That is just HER" - like the person possesses weird, strange alien beliefs.
ASIDE: If you met an alien, wouldn't you want to learn about their world? I would!
When you meet someone with views you simply can't understand or agree with, learn more. Not to change your mind. To help you better connect with ALL people. Connection is a piece our world seems to be struggling with these days. Let each of us start in our own lives with the people we know. Who knows how far the connection may spread.
By the way, you don't have to agree with me in this posting. I simply appreciate you keeping an open mind.
The time is 6:45pm. Sitting in the basement dressing room, you can hear the students packing Hendricks Hall Auditorium. The sound of their voices is getting louder and louder as the time passes. You can hear the excitement above. You walk up the stairs to the stage and now you can feel the energy. You've been here before and you know what a dynamic place this is to speak.
Yes, its been 4 straight years of speaking to over 1000 incoming students at the University of Central Missouri (the Mules). While their school name changed this year, their commitment to addressing sexual assault has not! They are a team of dedicated staff, educators, and students - most of who work through the LightHouse (a unique house where they host a group of volunteer students working on the issues surrounding sexual assault, violence, and many more important subject matters).
The day started at 12:30pm with Jessica and Jamie as my hosts for the campus visit. Their hospitatlity and warm personalities made the drive to campus fun. Once on campus, we prepared to speak to the RAs, Resident Directors, Residence Staff, and the student leaders from Greek Life. The room was filled with nearly 100 attendees. To start off, the students recited to me the lessons I taught from our session together last year. Clearly, they had retained all the major points from a year ago. No need to repeat. Great. This year, we are discussing how to conduct successful and well attended peer education programs on campus. After a spirited hour together, we summarize the importance of fun, passion, sensitive issues, and action.
The next hour is with the 1st year college athletes on campus. Being a former college athlete, I always feel a close comraderie. In the time we spend together, we address negative stereotypes of athletes and how not to live our life by those low standards. We share how to make the right choices. Ask first. Intervene when alcohol is involved. The students talk openly about the language which can be heard in athletics; thus revealing how often sexist comments are made against women in sports (example: what does a male call another male who is not being tough enough). In the end, the athletes made a commitment to respecting themselves and each other.
After we finished this presentation, a man was waiting at the back of the room. As he approached me, I thought he was probably a coach. He was at one time. Now, he is the Program Development and Retention Coordinator for Athletics. His name is John Culp and over the next 30 minutes he would captivate me with his conversation. John loves students and helping them mature into successful adults. The auditorium I will be presenting "Can I Kiss You?" in was his former high school back in the 1950s. As we shared with each other, he told me to make sure I keep coming back. My message to you John is "Please keep taking the time out of your day to say, 'Hi' Your enthusiasm for life is inspiring."
BACK TO THE AUDITORIUM: Now the time is 7:10pm and the "Can I Kiss You?" progam has begun. WOW! This audience of incoming students was full of energy! The residence life staff must have done a spectacular job of promoting my program to these students. Later I learned that the RAs continually stressed to the students how much they DID NOT WANT TO MISS this program. I was honored to hear the praise. When schools can get their students to genuinely promote from the heart, the passion of one student will spread to more. The Residence Life staff's word-of-mouth throughout the week had cleary resulted in the incoming students having very high expectations for our time together.
All the volunteers who came on stage to role-play scenes tonight did a nice job becoming part of the program. You can see their pictures throughout this post. Before we depart, I must thank the two professionals who make coming to their campus each year a pure delight - Megan Jones and Jenn Freitag. Both of you are role models for all the students working in the LightHouse and throughout campus with you. Thanks, Amy Kiger, for stopping by during the Residence Life session earlier. Amy was the first person to bring me to campus!
Yesterday afternoon, I spoke at the University of Dayton. Each year, they bring me to speak to their incoming students. This year was special because it was my 4th year in a row on their campus. The 4 consecutive years is cool because you know that almost every student on that campus has had the chance to hear the message we believe so strongly in (from the students who are just coming to school all the way through to the seniors).
For the seniors who came up to me today and told me how much they remembered my speech from their Freshman Orientation, "Thank You! You made my day." Our focus is to leave an impact that lasts over time. I only make one request of you. Continue to pass it on to others in your life.
The people at the University of Dayton who have a history of making sure all my visits to the University of Dayton become special are Jolly Jansen and Andy Fulton. The two of them do a great job of running all the days events for the new students and their parents at the University of Dayton. Plus, they have put together an excellent group of student leaders to guide the way. Throughout the day today, their student leaders took pictures of the multiple "Can I Kiss You?" programs given. The students came out in great numbers and showed terrific support for this message.
Last night as I drove through the Appalacian Moutains, I was taken aback by the beauty, the serenity, the green of the hillsides, and the roll of the individual mountain. After landing in Dayton, OH this morning, I was driving into the city and noticed a wonderous water fountain to the left of the expressway. You felt like you were looking at 5 large firehoses shooting up into the air and landing in one spot together in the middle of the river. As Garrison Keiler was speaking through the car radio on National Public Radio with a repeat broadcast of "A Prairie Home Companion," you felt compelled to just stop. Take it all in.
Well I couldn't stop in the middle of the expressway and so I enjoyed the moment for the second I had it. As for Garrison, his segment was captivating me. I hadn't heard his show in several years. This episode had me with his every word. Garrison was telling a story about a husband daydreaming in his hammock on a nice summer day. His dreams went through humorous flashbacks from his life. I needed to stop and get a bite to eat before I spoke at the University of Dayton. The only restaurant open was the Starbucks I am in right now. However, my car radio wouldn't let me open the car door. I had to hear the end and I'm glad I did. The ending of the story had the man admiring his wife as she walked into their home.
"Asking First" creates times in life that make us stop, slow down, and enjoy the moment. When you 'ask first', it forces you to pause. You get to take in every aspect of healthy intimacy without racing. By asking, you don't miss out on CREATING an unforgettable moment. Of course, these are the moments you want to slow down, get right, and enjoy!
The official start to my 2007-2008 school year kicked off tonight in Banner Elk, NC at Lees-McRae College. The day started by conducting a "Train the Trainers" session for the student Peer Educators, SART (Sexual Assault Response Team), and the Counseling Center. Everyone in attendance showed great passion for wanting to create a positive cultural change toward healthier and more respectful relationships. As we went around the room hearing everyone's goals, you felt a great sense of unity among the people in attendance.
The enthusiasm for learning new approaches to connecting with their students was wonderful. Susan took notes for the group and wrote ferociously. I am very excited to hear about the plans being created on their campus for the remainder of this school year (including several different programs spread throughout the year).
Next, all of the incoming students attended the "Can I Kiss You?" program. You could hear the energy in the room beforehand (and you could see it as a volleyball was getting hit around the room -- and into a few things). The crowd was having fun.
This group of students brought energy and questions. They didn't hold back and so we took on each inquiry through to the point of completion. A few times students within the room spoke out against one another's statements (in a healthy manner of debate). I love seeing people who are willing to stand up for what they believe in!
In this picture, you see the male volunteer working with me on stage. He did a nice job role-playing. "Thanks" goes out to Megan and Susan for putting together a well organized and successful day! If you have a really successful Peer Education program who does multiple peer-facilitated programs addressing healthy dating and sexual assault, contact Susan in their Counseling Center. She is open to hearing from other campuses.
We are back from summer break and a new school year has begun. Tomorrow, I speak at Lee McRae University and then at the University of Dayton on Sunday. After that, I speak in 11 cities in 11 days. This time of the year is energizing. Students are starting a new chapter in their life. They come to campus nervous and eager to get going. They suddenly live in a new setting. They will meet new friends and peers.
Along with the new school, this blog is going through its own exciting changes. I am excited about our new look and the many changes we have planned. Here is a look into the blog's upcoming transformation:
You will be able to visit this blog daily and find new postings and/or comments. You are encouraged to submit "Comments" on any and all posts. Lets have an incredibly productive 2007-2008.
One week ago, I returned from a trip to South Africa which included speaking at a primary school to the 6th and 7th graders. The experience was both emotionally moving and encouraging. As soon as I returned, people were asking me, "So was it difficult giving your speech, especially knowing the cultural differences between you and them?" The answer is "NO!" The students were open-minded, out-spoken, and caring individuals. They were honest about their beliefs and culture. Plus, they seemed to genuinely appreciate getting to hear a speaker.
In my newsletter (now titled "Let's Talk") coming out this week, you will be able to read much more about the students, their understandings, and specifically to their reactions of "Asking First." To receive the free e-mail newsletter, scroll to the top of this blog and sign-up.
Earlier today, I spoke at NSA's (National Speaker's Association) Youth Leadership Conference. The attendees are 130 students ranging in age from ten year olds through sixteen year olds from around the world. The conference chair is a good friend of mine and fellow speaker, Sunjay Nath (www.sunjaynath.com). When he asked me to present, I was honored because my own children attend this conference each year. The attendees hear top speakers from around the world each day of the conference.
The group was wonderful to work with. Afterwards, I received an insightful e-mail from a parent of one of the attendees. He shared with me that my program was one of only two his son really talked a lot about afterwards. He said his son agreed with everything I said and only had one question. Here it was: "What if everyone you know thinks 'asking' is the right thing to do, but you are not sure everyone else will 'ask first'?"
My response was the following:
"The question is not WHO will 'ask first.' The question is WILL YOU? Will YOU give your partner a choice by asking first? Will YOU support the survivors in your life? Will YOU intervene when friends have been drinking? You have all the power you need to make the right choice. What are YOU going to do?"
You can't worry about what others are going to do. You must first look at your own decisions. Be a leader by example (not just by what you preach).
FOLLOW-UP: We heard back and were told this approach made all the difference. Interestingly enough, two of the counselors from that same conference had e-mailed me sharing how much "asking first" has dramatically changed their relationships for the better. Most people do want to make the right choice (whether they want to admit it to their peers or not).
Earlier today, I was speaking at a Wellness Conference for educators and counselors. The audience asked me questions about healthy dating, dating violence, and relationships pertaining to teenage students. If you work with teenagers today, you know many of them shut down the moment you say, "Dating Violence" because they feel the term is overused and they don't think it applies to them.
How DO you connect with the very serious issue of dating violence? Two words . . . "Equal Choices." Ask students if they have "Equal Choices" in their relationships and then go through all the different kinds of choices each student makes in a relationship. You can even score the importance of the choices. For instance, who decides the following?
Does the same person tend to dominate? Does one person take control on issues that are more serious and/or long-lasting? Do you both have "equal choices" in all of these areas? If so, how do you establish the equal choices and how do you always honor them? If not, why not? What changes would need to take place for you to have "equal choices"? Certainly, you DESERVE to always have an equal choice in a relationship concerning YOUR life.
Each summer, Kansas State University brings me to speak to their Wildcat Warm-up students in June. Wildcat Warm-up is a special weekend for incoming students who want a chance to get acquainted with the campus and college life. This year, they had big numbers in attendance. The students were full of energy.
After my presentation, the students break into groups and then I go around to answer each group's questions. We always get questions many students are thinking such as, "Do long distance relationships work?" My answer is,
"If you are asking, often YOU have concerns about whether the specific relationship you are in will survive a long-distance situation. The answer is different for each relationship. If you know you are in a fantastic relationship, you probably would not even be asking the question because you wouldn't have that thought going through your mind. If your partner has this concern, odds are that you are not in an ideal situation for a long distance relationship to work.
From what I see students go through, breaking up NOW and starting fresh is much easier than going off to college with lots of worries and concerns. If a breakup does happen while at school, the ugliness and uncomfortableness nature of being 'over the phone' or via 'e-mail' can be quite upsetting and/or distressing for many. Start college in a good 'place' mentally and emotionally. You deserve it."
Being that I work on college campuses across the country, we have seen the effect Monday's tragedy has had throughout our nation. Here is a very simple way to HONOR those whose lives were greatly changed by Monday's shootings.
The following paragraph was provided by the University of Kentucky's Women's Place
Spread the word - Orange and Maroon Effect
Virginia Tech family members across the country have united to declare this Friday, April 20th, an "Orange and Maroon Effect" day to honor those killed in the tragic events on campus Monday, and to show support for Virginia Tech students, faculty, administrators, staff, alumni, and friends. "Orange and Maroon Effect" was born several years ago as an invitation to Tech fans to wear orange and maroon to Virginia Tech athletic events. We invite everyone from all over the country to be a part of the Virginia Tech family this Friday, to wear orange and maroon to support the families of those who were lost, and to support the school and community we all love so much.
Monday's shootings once again started with violence against women. We must start to engage our media and news outlets in this horrific pattern that is occurring throughout our country. The Amish School shootings targed females. The Bailey, Colorado school shootings targed females (include sexual molestation). Monday's shootings began by the man killing two females in a one-on-one situation. We have video games where players can rape a women as a "reward" or to GAIN points. Write letters to the Editor and demand the need for our country to start facing the "Violence Against Women" occuring throughout our society.
Let us not have all of those lives lost on Monday for nothing. Help us to create real change by igniting the conversation on how our society needs to STOP normalizing violence against women. Once we get people talking, we can get them to take action -- positive action!!
As our nation is learning about the horrific tragedy at Virginia Tech earlier today, our thoughts and prayers go out to the students, the staff, faculty, employees, and the entire community. To the family and friends of the deceased and the injured, we pray for and with you. You will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers.
This past Monday, I spoke to many of the men and women at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. From the leaders of the base to the newest of the enlisted, everyone was wonderful to work with. Often non-military people will ask me the following two questions about speaking to the military, "Who brings you to a base and what is it like?"
In the military, SARC stands for "Sexual Assault Response Coordinator" and is a position designated to address the many issues surrounding sexual assault. When I have been brought onto a military base, it has always been by the SARC contact (or someone from that office). These professionals are passionate individuals who fully understand the need for this content to be given for all levels of the military. Due to timing and other restrictions, we are not able to talk with every single person and so each base must choose which of their members will attend.
As to the "What is it like speaking to the military" question people love to ask me, the answer is simple -- it is FANTASTIC!! Why wouldn't it be? Typically, the audience is 18 - 24 years old (almost exactly the same as a college audience). They are in the "dating world" or married. Consequenlty, they see and/or experience all the problems and struggles that exist in relationships and intimacy. Plus, they enter the program with a positive attitude of wanting to be entertained and challenged -- all while displaying respect for you as a presenter. The e-mails and comments we receive from the attendees afterwards prove how attentive of an audience they are AND how much they wanted the material.
Every time I get to speak to our military, I am honored!! As I told the men and women on Monday, "My work depends on me being able to speak freely and being able to challenge society's norms. I am forever grateful for your willingness to fight for those freedoms!!!"
Prom season is about to be in full swing across the country. Having your teenager dating can be a scary at any time of the year, but especially true with the expectations and horror stories we've all heard about Prom. How do parents properly prepare their teenagers for the dangers of dating in today’s sexual culture? How do parents talk with their high school students about dating, intimacy, sex, boundaries, respect, decision-making, alcohol, and safety?
Over the past few years, parents have continuously asked us to create a DVD program they could use in their own homes to talk with their preteens and their teenagers. From that demand, today we released Help! My Teen is Dating. Real Solutions to Tough Conversations DVD and book combination.
We have been completely blessed and honored by the incredible reviews coming in from educators, parents, counselors, doctors, and professionals. One professional actually asked us, "Why doesn't everyone in the country have this DVD and the books? They are fantastic. Every parent, school, and community needs the lessons and concepts shared in this set. Why hasn't this been on 'Oprah' yet?" Obviously the last portion of that statement provided us a good chuckle. You can read all the reviews yourself at www.helpmyteenisdating.com.
One of the bonuses we've been hearing is how many parents are telling us their teenager ENJOYED watching this DVD with them!! Plus, two critically-acclaimed books are included along with the DVD: May I Kiss You? and Voices of Courage.
Go to www.pledge4action.org/tshirt and vote to decide the final version of the "Pledge 4 Action"RM T-shirts!! By voting, you give a school a chance to win 50 Free T-shirts (maybe even your school). Hurry before the voting deadline passes by!! The winner will get the shirts by the first week in April.
Lessons from the Road: Inspirational Insights by Leading Speakers in Education is 280 pages of inspiration written by the country's top speakers and authors dedicated to youth, higher education, and service to humanity. The “Chicken for the Soup” format has the the book divided up into a diversity of insights covering the following landscape of topics: compassion, difference makers, determination, effective communication, family, life, love, reflection, relationships, success, thinking differently and wisdom.
The Foreword is written by Olympic Skating Champion Scott Hamilton and so I was honored to have them ask me to write two chapters. Just having received the book, we were thrilled with its unique content and the power of the chapters. The various authors make for a great read. To get this book for only $15, click here. This book is ideal for students, parents and educators!!
**Partial proceeds from every sale through Mike Domitrz are donated to R.A.I.N.N. (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) at www.rainn.org.
Parents, we have a brand new project about to be released and we want YOUR questions. Please e-mail any and all questions you have about "talking with your teenager about dating, intimacy, communication, respect, and the dangers surrounding sexual assault" to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your question is selected as part of this project, we will send you a special gift for contributing!! Please e-mail your questions today.
4 Days are left to submit ideas for the "Pledge 4 Action" T-shirts. If your idea for a shirt is selected, you or your school (your choice) will receive 50 of the T-shirts you design!! You will get the shirts by April 1st (for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April). The contest is very simple to enter and is open to everyone (parents, students, educators, professionals, etc...). Simply go to www.pledge4action.org/tshirt. The deadline is this Friday, March 9th. Enter NOW!!
Recently while speaking to Juniors and Seniors at a high school, we had a group of males who were being disruptive. Each time it occurred during my program, I stopped and personally addressed the individual being rude. I've always believed, "You can't tell students to stand up against 'wrongful' actions of others (such as teaching Bystander Intervention) and then NOT stand up to someone acting out inappropriately in your audience." When you have to do this, it can change the "feel" and "tone" of a presentation. Once in a really rare situation, the room will get quieter for the remainder of the program (you won't necessarily feel the same outward energy from the students).
Afterward, a few teachers commented, "Wow! You handled those guys incredibly well. I just wonder how that effected the rest of the room in getting the message." Well, here is what happened. My e-mail box was inundated with an overwhelming number of e-mails saying, "Thanks for a great program. I learned soo much. We apologize for those few guys. And THANK YOU for standing up to them." As it went into the night, the e-mails just kept coming in. The e-mails were coming from both males and females.
Ironically, these few guys brought the rest of the student body together as one voice. One of the biggest mistakes we can make as facilitators or educators is to think, "They got really quiet for a lot of that program. We must not have got through to them." Actually, it can be the opposite. You connected with their hearts so strongly that you got them thinking deeply and passionately. You got them sooo out of their comfort zone that change was taking place right before your eyes.
Never fear holding your audience accountable. If you don't, who will? When yo do hold individuals accountable, you might just get the rest of the students to completely agree with you and REALLY get them thinking in a new light!!
When someone provides you feedback, how do you absorb their words? Do you open your mind with a positive energy of "How can I make that work?" or do you respond with "I like your ideas, BUT . . ." and immediately share why you cannot or will not utilize their idea(s)?
Recently, I was sharing on a college e-mail listserve how schools can utilize our "Pledge for Action" during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April. At the time, the pledge was called the "Pledge to Protect." We have been utilizing this pledge for over a 1.5 years. Through this e-mail exchange on the listserve, one of the members shared how she did not like the word "Protect" in the pledge's title because of the Patriarchal meanings and connotations of that specific word. No one was questioning the content of the pledge -- just the name.
We had a choice. We could say to ourselves, "It is one person and this pledge has been extremely effective. If we make this change, we would have to get new websites, change all the current information we send out, and make lots of other updates." The other option we had was to ask the entire listserve, "What if we change the name to 'Pledge for Action' which requires signers to commit to taking real action? What do you all think of this idea?"
We chose to open this question to the entire listserve and the feedback was OVERWHELMING -- we kept hearing "WE LOVE THE CHANGE to Pledge for Action!!" (www.pledge4action.org).
From that change, another colleague of mine suggested, "Mike, with this new name, I can envision a pin people can wear year-round that says, 'Pledge for Action' and it would be a die-cast pin (like a National Honor Society pin in high school) so it would be sharp looking." The "Pledge for Action" pins have now been ordered. We have a pin designed in the shape of the logo used on the pledge with the wording "Pledge for Action" across the front. Plus, we have a new t-shirt coming out which is designed specifically for the pledge!
All of this change happened because one person shared their opinion with us. If we had discarded their e-mail, we would have lost out on improving an already successful educational campaign. The new changes are going to help us get this campaign out to many more populations, especially with schools, communities, and organizations being able to use the pins and the shirts in conjunction with the signing of the pledge.
The surprising part of this experience were the amount of e-mails saying, "Thanks, Mike, for being willing to listen to change. Most people would not have opened up this conversation about their own work." To me, it seems like the only choice. How can you ask students and communities to open their minds -- while you keep yours closed to helpful feedback?
Who will you ask for their ideas today? What positive changes will you make? Join us in our newest change and sign the pledge at www.pledge4action.org.
Last week, I spoke at Kutztown University and they took an unique action. When I travel to campuses, they can utilize my program up to 3 times during the day. Typically, they have me do a "Train the Trainer" session for a more targeted campus group/leaders and then have me present my "Can I Kiss You?" keynote to a large audience (ranging from general student populartion to athletes, Greek LIfe, residence life, etc...).
Kutztown University (their Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance in conjunction with Residence Life) used one of those 3 sessions to invite the local Upward Bound program to experience their own private session of the "Can I Kiss You?" presentation. Upward Bound is a federally funded TRIO program that offers pre-college student services at Kutztown University since 1999. Participants from Allentown and Reading high schools receive academic reinforcement in subjects including math, science, composition/literature, foreign language, geography and study skills. UB also features a unique program of organizational training that includes keeping and using a day planner. Upward Bound provides after school tutoring, a full-day Saturday academic program, and a five week summer residential program that offers our students a high level of secondary school enrichment. Along with cultural experiences that include field trips to locations such as the Smithsonian Institute and the Philadelphia Art Museum, seminars and training experiences such as job shadowing are also part of the program.
Often campuses ask me how they can get their local community involved? Kutztown University is a great example. They took one of their spots for the day and invited Upward Bound to bus their students to the campus to hear the program. They provided pizza for the students when they arrived and so everyone was having fun and excited to be there. The feedback from the students afterwards was inspiring.
With April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, what will you do to work together with someone in your area (schools, colleges, community organizations)? Regardless of which type of organization you are involved with, teamwork is always possible. I've seen Sheriff's Departments help sponsor a speaker on sexual assault. Local rape crisis centers have funded presentations given in 3 different high schools in one day. Colleges have teamed with multiple high schools. Last year, Wartburg College helped lots of high schools get the "Asking First" message (1200 high school students were bused in from area high schools to hear the program at Wartburg College).
After communicating with John Petroski via e-mail over the past few days, I wish I could tell you the following happened:
1) He replied gracefully to each e-mail sent to him from the readers of this blog, especially to the survivors of sexual assault who opened up to him.
2) He e-mailed to tell us that he finished reading Voices of Courage: Inspiration from Survivors of Sexual Assault and then shared the insight he gained from the book. **To help raise his awareness, we sent him the e-book during the first evening of e-mail communications with him.
Unfortunately, neither of those results occurred. In fact, John Petroski did not respond to any of the e-mails forwarded to him by readers of this blog. When we e-mailed him to see if he was going to respond, he told us he didn't know what to say. We recommended he thank each person for their words. Instead, he simply hasn't replied -- until this morning. This morning, we received the following e-mail exchange from John Petroski
First e-mail from John Petroski (he is referring to an e-mail forwarded to him from a reader of this blog):
"You know what? There is absolutely nothing nice I can say about people who honestly feel my article 'glorif[ied] rape.' So I won't. CNN already pretty much laid it out for me, anyway."
Mike Domitrz's response:
Then I will share your response on the blog. Since you have not responded to any of the e-mails yet, I will also stop forwarding these e-mails to you.
John Petroski's next e-mail response:
Please keep forwarding them. I made a promise to read them all and I will. I don't believe I promised to reply to every last one, however.
Mike Domitrz's next response:
On my blog, I will let your e-mails speak for themselves. I will not summarize to take the risk of misquoting you. I will share your exact words.
I do think you are being unreasonable. If soooo many people read YOUR words and did not realize you were not being serious, than YOUR WORDS were poorly written by you. Accountability means you look in the mirror and see the results of your choices (both the intended results and the unintended results). You seem to be saying, "I can't control how people react to my words." Yes, you can have great impact on your words. How? By the words you choose. If you did an article sharing the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses, the reaction would have been completely different. You chose to write the piece you did -- KNOWING it would cause controversy. You have said that your article proved the point you were TRYING to make.
If you are sorry for the hurt you caused, why are you "unable" to say something "nice" to the PEOPLE you hurt? Yes, some of their e-mails may sound harsh to you. They are hurt, John. Your words stirred that emotion and pain. Your words.
John Petroski's next response:
This whole experience has taught me many important lessons about people, and they don't all reflect poorly on me.
End of e-mails.
If you would like to forward an e-mail to John Petroski, you can still do so by e-mailing us at The Date Safe Project at email@example.com. We encourage you to post your comments here on the blog. Why? The words you share on this blog will not be wasted. In fact, your words shared here may inspire more people to help create change in their communities. The readers of this blog have shown a history of caring and possessing great passion for helping others.
Many people have asked me, "What suggestions are people sharing with him? How much emotion are people sharing with him?" Without their permission, we will not post any of the e-mails of our readers. The e-mails have included both reasonable and helpful suggestions for John Petroski to increase his understanding of sexual assault. In addition, e-mails have shared hard-hitting emotions felt by the reader.
The educational process and creating positive change is always an ongoing effort. Please take this opportunity to post any comments or suggestions you have for actions that can be taken for the future (such as the comments posted on this blog in Juliette Grimmett's "Comment" which suggested to have campus newspaper staffs receive training on sexual violence, stalking, and relationship violence). What else can each of us do in our communities?
The recent article in The Recorder (student newspaper at Central Connecticut State University) titled, "Rape Only Hurts If You Fight It"' has caused great pain to many people across the country. As individuals share their reactions in e-mails, blogs, "Letters to the Editor", and many other mediums, we wanted to provide a direct outlet for both the conversation and the future.
In deciding what to post on our blog, I have chosen not to reprint the original article. Why? Because many survivors have shared the pain this article has caused and so we are giving each individual the choice to read the article through other online sources. From what I have been told and could find, The Recorder has pulled the article. By doing a search on the internet, you can find the article posted on blogs and various websites. The apology the writer gave on his campus earlier this week is not available on many websites and so you can read it by clicking here.
The second reason we chose not to publish the original article is the possibility that the author could have written this article to get publicity. Reprinting the article would only be bring further publicity -- while potentially hurting more people who's lives have been effected by the crime and tragedy of sexual assault (the apology does not include the shocking and painful wording found in the original article).
What we have done is gone directly to the source. This evening, I shared an exchange of e-mails with John Petroski, the writer of the orginal article. I contacted him to see how accountable he was being for the words he wrote. At no time prior did John Petroski contact me. I initiated the conversation. I do believe the progression of events is important to those people who may argue, "If he contacted you, then he might just be using you for more publicity."
What I do want to provide is an opportunity for EVERYONE to share their reactions with him directly!! While this writer has had the opportunity to be heard, many others do not have a large platform to share their thoughts. I wanted to insure that every voice would have the chance to be heard by the actual author of the original article. To do so, I needed to discover whether he would listen or read anyone's comments. Therefore, the following is the precise exchange of 2 e-mails shared tonight (afterward, I asked for John Petroski's permission to share the e-mails and he gave full permission). Below are the exact words. After the progression of e-mails, my comments follow:
E-mail from Mike Domitrz to John Petroski:
To help all those whose pain you've caused, I will share your e-mail on my blog at www.askingfirst.com. With your apology, I'm sure you accept responsibility to respond to the people you hurt throughout this country. Now that your voice has been heard, many of them want you to hear theirs.
Response from John Petroski to Mike Domitrz:
The Delta Zeta Sorority at California State University - Long Beach (CSU - Long Beach) almost had their entire chapter in attendance for the "Can I Kiss You?" presentation (you can see them in the picture). In fact, they brought the most students from Greek Life to the program.
One sorority sister shared, "By the way, I went on a date with a guy, who also attended your presentation on Monday, and I kid you not he asked if it was ok for him to kiss me before he actually did it!! I was in shock and so impressed that he was serious. Thanks again for an amazing presentation." You never know how quickly people will begin change!!
Various departments from throughout campus worked hard -- which resulted in a standing room only of over 500 students for the event. Athletics helped sponsored the program and it showed as many teams were in attendance.
Residence Life, a co-sponosr, encouraged their residents and leadership (RAs, etc...) to attend the main program and then a smaller "Train the Trainer" session was run exclusively for RAs and their Directors. The attendees in the "Train the Trainer" workshop were very interactive. I am excited to hear about their upcoming programming ideas and how they will be putting the ideas into action over the upcoming months.
From the PRESS RELEASE:
Over the past few months, we have noticed several "Sign-ups" for the "Pledge to Protect" coming from e-mail addresses at Northern Michigan University (you can join the pledge online at www.pledge2protect.org). Today, our offices received a powerful letter from Shelby Mitchell, a R.A.D. Instructor (Rape Aggreession Defense Program) at Northern Michigan University. She shared how they have combined the materials from "The Date Safe Project", including the stage productions of "Voices of Courage" (www.voicesofcourage.com) and the "Pledge to Protect", with their courses materials. In doing so, their students are receiving a fully comprehensive approach to awareness and safety. In addition to all the online sign-ups we've had from her students, she mailed us a large packet of pledges signed in-person. Thank you, Shelby, for making a wonderful difference in the lives of your students!!
How do you keep a record of educational events on campus? Last night at the University of California - Irvine, the students, staff, and administration came together to address sexual assault awareness. Through combined efforts of various organizations, they drew a Standing-Room Only turnout for the "Can I Kiss You?" program. Students attended from athletics, housing, Greek Life, and various areas of student life. Plus, administrators and staff came out in force. Organizations such as "Right to Know" and "1 in 4" hosted information tables outside the program.
How do you document so many different things going on at the same time? Pictures alone fail to reflect the energy created by great programming. What does? LIVE VIDEO!! Not video of the presentation. Instead video footage of the impact. Along with students, the Police Chief shared his reaction as part of a video summary. You can watch the video clip by clicking here. Why did they do a "Video Summary" and create a photo album? Dr. Mandy Mount, Director of C.A.R.E., wanted a variety of documentation to show the success programming can have at a school. How did they create the video summary? She had a student assigned to go around and ask people "What did you think about tonight's program?" The student conducting the videotaping "randomly approached people as they left the lecture hall. By the way, a big THANKS" goes out to Gavin for being the officially video-taper!
What creativity can you utilize to keep a lifelong record of your event's success?
Frequently, schools promote the "Can I Kiss You?" presentation by having Kissing Booths on their campus the days before the program. These "Kissing" Booths do not involve anyone receiving a kiss through physical contact. Instead, the people in the booth hand out Hershey KISSES to students who approach them. The kisses will often have a piece of paper attached promoting the presentation (time, place, etc...).
At Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, they took the "Kissing Booth" concept to a new and exciting level. By going to a local store, they were able to get a customized MOBILE Kissing Booth to utilize on their campus throughout this week. The booth is extremely lightweight and easy to wear. Plus, it was very reasonably priced. Ah what a little ingenuity will do!
Because the athletics department was the main sponsor of my visit, various athletes took the job of "Standing" up for "Asking First" in the kissing booth. Thanks to all the athletes and the entire staff at LMU for using your creativity to help make a difference on your campus.
After recently writing a post about "Passion vs. Drive", the movie Freedom Writers shows us a great example of the difference. While many characters in this movie had passion, one person had the drive to push standards to a higher level. Even more special is the truth component. The movie is based on an actual class. Experts say Freedom Writers is very close to what really took place (not always common in movies "based on a true story").
Don't worry. I'm not going to go into details on the movie. Go see it. For many people, this movie will be an eye opener on cultural issues in our society and in our schools. Plus -- if you love what you do for a living, you will relate to the main character in Freedom Writers.
From the 1/24/07 Times Union (Albany, NY) . The direct link to the competition is:
An unprecedented competition is under way to find innovative solutions to domestic violence that plagues families and communities in this country and globally.
"No Private Matter! Ending Abuse in Intimate and Family Relations" is sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Dozens of violence prevention programs -- based in the United States and around the world -- are expected to propose novel approaches to help eliminate intimate partner and family violence.
The competition runs through March 28 at http://www.changema
Judges will choose 12 finalists who are heading innovative and effective prevention programs. All will be given opportunities to showcase their efforts. Three of the 12 will receive cash prizes of $5,000.
The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reports more than 625,000 nonfatal intimate partner incidents in the United States in 2004, and the majority of victims were females.
Carol DeMare can be reached at 454-5431 or by e-mail at cdemare@timesunion.
This past Tuesday night at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, the campus did a fantastic job of getting local educators and professionals to come out for the "Can I Kiss You?" presentation. After the program, a person from the Baltimore County Schools (1 hour away) introduced herself and then an educator from the local school sytem (in Frederick) talked with me for quite some time.
In our materials, we always encourage campuses to work with their nearby middle schools and high schools to help make a difference throughout the local area (if the facility has enough room to fit their college students and people from the area). A "Great Job" goes out to everyone at Hood College for caring about their extended community!
Sometimes when groups are involved in sponsoring, they only want to give financial assistance. Not at Hood! Several athletes came up to me throughout the night to tell me how hard everyone had been working at "getting the word out." When you get peers promoting, you get ENERGY!!
Blogs are becoming a wonderful forum for survivors of sexual assault to share with each other and the world. Consequently, we have decided to create a list of blogs supporting and/or run by survivors. You can see the list on the left side of this blog. We hope you find this list both helpful, supportive, and inspiring.
If you know of an appropriate blog to be added to the list, please leave a comment with your suggestion and why.
Yes, the media is hitting with "breaking news" this weekend about Marshawn Lynch being investigated for sexual assault and domestic violence (see AOL Sports Blog). He is a star football player bound for the NFL (according to draft experts) and so this report is gaining national attention.
Already, I am reading blog comments and online posts attacking the female. You've read and heard all the stereotypical excuses before such as, "Women are always false reporting to get money or revenge." When people engage in statements that are based on victim-blaming, ask the person, "What percentage of sexual assault cases involve a gigantic financial payout to the survivor?" Now the person might respond with, "Do you know?" If you don't know, be honest. Say, "Look, you are the one making a very serious allegation against the female. You are the one generalizing about women who report being sexually assaulted. Not me. Can you back it up with PROOF? If not, how about not saying anything until you know more information?"
We need to hold people accountable for their words. Get people thinking. Ask this person, "Of all the women you know, do you think at least one of them was sexually assaulted in their lifetime?" Most people will answer, "Yes." Continue the conversation with, "How do you think it would make that survivor who you know feel to hear you degrading another survivor for coming forward? Many, many survivors never tell anyone because they are afraid of the exact judgements you are placing on this woman."
What can you do to make a difference? When you hear people discussing this case, move the conversation from victim-blaming to an open discussion about how prevalent sexual assault is in our world. Talk about how society frequently reacts to news stories of sexual assaults by turning the blame on the survivor. Give the people you are talking with resources to learn more. One of the reasons we were honored to be involved in the Voices of Courage: Inspiration from Survivors of Sexual Assault book (www.voicesofcourage.com) is because those 12 survivors do a spectacular job of showing the various issues facing survivors today.
Are you aware of the "Sexual Assault, Consent, & Students" podcast which is produced every 2 weeks throughout the school year? You can learn more at www.datesafeshow.com. The latest broadcast features an interview with the always insightful Patrick Lemmon, Executive Director of Men Can Stop Rape. In addition, you can learn about 2 great success stories from students and community groups on the East Coast.
What is a podcast? A podcast is an online radio show that you can take with you -- everywhere! You can download it to any mp3 player (iPod and many others). Or you can simply listen to it on your computer. Each podcast of "Sexual Assault, Consent, & Students" features the following 3 segments:
1) Ask Away: an insightful interview with a top educator, expert, and/or researcher addressing the many issues surrounding sexual assault awareness, healthy dating, respect, and communication.
2) Sharing Success: an individual leader or organization shares their success story with you (how the idea came about, how they did it, and how you can implement the concept in your work).
3) Speak Out: the special segment where listeners of the podcast share their personal and/or professional thoughts on hot issues.
Visit www.datesafeshow.com today to start listening!!
What is the difference in a person being "passionate" about an issue verses being "driven"? Many people are "passionate" and do little with the strong feelings they possess. In some cases, their passion turns negative and consumes them (bitterness, hatred, etc...). The "driven" are passionate individuals who are determined to get RESULTS -- to create CHANGE!! The "driven" will do what others are not willing to even try. They do not give up.
A great example of being driven is in today's news. Thomas Moore, the brother of a murder victim killed in 1964, is helping to bring justice to his family -- 43 years later (read about it at www.cnn.com). Another example is Linda from the book "Voices of Courage: Inspiration from Survivors of Sexual Assault" (www.voicesofcourage.com). The man who raped Linda was not found. She didn't give up. In fact, she called the police over 16 years later -- to have Lieutenent Weaver pick up the case and FIND the rapist. Weaver had told Linda her case had always bothered him. He wanted to solve it before retiring in a few years. They did!!
Are you driven? If you work with students or in education at any level, are you willing to try and make connections with issues the rest of society has given up on? Are you continually growing by challenging yourself with new approaches? You've heard the cliche' "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over -- and expecting different results." Do you step back and evaluate your own performance with an open mind to the questions, "What can I do better?" and "How do I get that done immediately?" A great question is, "What would get me the greatest results possible?" Now, why haven't you already done it? What are you afraid of? Remember the "driven" do not give up! When faced with a challenge, they get more creative and work even harder. They are never complacent.
What will you do to connect with your students this year? What exercise, activity, or program will you try for the first time? How will you take your "passion" and become driven to make a difference?
Deb Drucker, the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator at the Naval Submarine Base located in CT, asked a very good question in her comments to this posting. First of all, a big "Thanks" goes out to Deb for her supportive and kind words. Her question is one of the most common inquiries educators and advocates ask me. "How" do you make that connection, especiallly being a female talking to an audience which is 80% male and who knows you are not from a military background?
Deb, I am not from a military background and what I have found is the following: if you get the group having fun and interacting right away, they will respect you for not "lecturing" them and will appreciate your approach. Your non-military status will not matter.
How do you engage them right off the bat? State what you believe to be the biggest "barrier" to them connecting with you. Throw it right out to them. For instance, Janet Shealy at The Citadel opens conversations with men by often saying, "I'm guessing you are thinking 'What in the world am I going to learn from some XXX year old lady? The last thing I want to do is bore you with a lecture. If you hate lectures, yea 'Oh Yea!!' Then lets have some fun today." Now, she has the audience with her. Then, she will start by asking a simple question they can all agree on -- maybe even laugh. Once you get people laughing, you quickly tear down barriers.
Another option you have is to ask them an open-ended question which helps them start the conversation for you. For instance, "What do you hate most about these types of programs?" or "What do you expect me to talk about? What would you rather I talk about? Why?" Then, you can go into a much deeper conversation. The best part? They gave you the material and so they feel like they are in control. You now have them involved and taking ownership of the discussion.
Not being a female, I will not say, "I understand the battles you face, Deb." Knowing "of" the struggles is differnent than experiencing and facing those struggles. This clarification is important because I do think men in this line of work need to be careful of telling women how easy it is to overcome gender stereotypes by an audience.
My best advice is to talk to females in the field such as Janet Shealy. Notice how her first statement to the audience addresses the gender and AGE issue right off the bat. I do not know your age and so you may not have that same concern. When I started doing this work in college, people use to tell me, "Mike, when you are 30 years old, you are not going to be able to connect with these students." That age mark passed almost 7 years ago and I am blessed to busier now than ever. Why? Just like other audience barriers, if you get them involved (especially if you get them laughing), they are not going to stop themselves and say, "Wait, I am not suppose to like this program. After all, this person is OLD!" They are going to have fun going "with the flow" of the presentation.
Notice how Janet did not say, "I am a woman and so I have no idea what you are going through." Those kind of statements are disconnects. The audience hears it and thinks, "Then why am I listening to you?" CONNECTION, CONNECTION, CONNECTION!!
Last week while speaking at a middle school, I asked the students how often they use IM (instant messaging). Their response astounded many of the educators. The far majority of the students said they did use IM routinely. When asked if they knew of IM conversations which lead to problems at school, almost every single student said, "Yes." Students admit they type statements in IM which they would never say on the phone or in-person (including violent and/or inappropriate sexual comments). They acknowledge getting caught up in an unhealthy IM conversation before realizing the hurt they are causing or the hurt being felt.
Logic would lead to the next question: "Are you limited as to how much you can be on IM when you are home?" Most students shared they have no limit to using IM. Many of these same students are given very defined guidelines for being on the telelphone or a cell phone. While many parents focus on limiting phone time, the real damage is being done on the unmonitored computer conversations in IM or on sites such as MySpace.
What can parents do? Set very defined guidelines for using technology to communicate (online forums such as MySpace, IM, AIM, etc...). Ask your teengaer or preteen, "What are all the different ways students communicate using computers?" Between last week and today, another medium for online communication could have already taken over and is now the big hit (literally it can change week to week with kids' preferences). Please feel free to download our free articles discussing sites such as MySpace at www.canikissyou.com/resources.
In addition, you can investigate software programs which allow you to track all activity on your computer (even IM conversations). If you are concerned about "spying" on your student's IM conversations, then tell the student you are able to monitor the computer. No one said you should or have to be secretive. You control who comes in through the doors of your home. Why not keep an eye on who your kids bring into your home through your computer? This is not an issue of distrust. These decisions are about safety. You may trust your child. However, that does not stop your child from being hurt or harrassed through computer communications.
For instance, your child knows you are not going to allow illegal drugs into your home. If your child argued, "But I'm not going to misuse those drugs. Only my friends are", you are not likely to say, "Okay. Then your friends can bring those drugs into our home. After all, I know I can trust you and that is the only thing that matters." No, illegal drugs are not okay and so you won't allow them. In this case, you are not saying "No" to IMing. You are simply saying you can monitor it. If your child wants the conversations to be private, have him or her call the person on the phone. Remember, students admit they are much less likey to say as hurtful or damaging words on the phone as they are in IMing.