16 Things You Didn’t Know About Incest/Child Sexual Abuse And How To End It

We are pleased to welcome a guest “16 For 16” article from the RAHI Foundation. Established in 1996, RAHI is a pioneering organisation focused on women survivors of Incest and Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). RAHI’s work includes support and recovery through the distinctive RAHI Model of Healing, awareness and education about incest/ CSA, training and intervention, and research and capacity building – all established within the larger issue of social change.

In this article, they provide an overview of what incest/child sexual abuse is and the steps we can take for prevention and intervention when we recognise it in our communities.

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Child sexual abuse is the abuse of a child involving sexual activity by a more powerful person. When this person is a member of the child’s family or close enough to the child’s family to qualify as ‘as if’ family, the abuse is called incest.

Incest/child sexual abuse (CSA) is veiled in silence. Like all forms of abuse and harassment, we want to believe ‘it doesn’t happen here’, but the reality of incest/CSA is far grimmer and made up of uncomfortable truths. Incest/CSA is more common than we realise, and usually perpetrated by someone loved, respected and trusted by the child. They can have damaging consequences on the child which can continue into adulthood. However, its scars are not permanent, and victims and survivors of incest/CSA can heal from their abuse, leave their past behind, and lead rich, fulfilling lives.

Incest/CSA is also shrouded in myths and misconceptions, which none of us are immune to falling for. Here are 16 things you didn’t know about incest/CSA.

*NB: We use the term ‘victims’ for children who have been sexually abused and ‘survivors’ for adults who were sexually abused when they were children.

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Part 1: Get The Facts About Incest/Child Abuse

Recognising & Ending Incest/CSA #1: It’s more common than you think. Incest/CSA is the epidemic no one speaks about. A government-led study on child abuse in India in 2007 revealed that out of a sample of over 14,000 children, 53.3% had experienced some form of sexual abuse in childhood. RAHI’s own research, detailed in Voices from the Silent Zone (published, 1998 – you can order a copy over email), found that amongst 600 English speaking middle- and upper-class women in cities in India, 76% had experienced sexual abuse in childhood out of which 40% was incest.

Recognising & Ending Incest/CSA #2: It mostly takes place in families. Media reports on incest/CSA usually portray it as an act committed by a stranger. However, the majority of cases of CSA are cases of incest with the perpetrator being a member of the child’s family, or someone close to and respected by the child’s family.

Recognising & Ending Incest/CSA #3: Abusers are not monsters. As much as we would like to believe that abusers are different from us and place them in the guise of ‘monsters’ or ‘mentally ill,’ the truth is that abusers are more like us than they are not like us. It is impossible for us to identify an abuser unless we know that he is abusing.

Recognising & Ending Incest/CSA #4: Victims and survivors find it difficult to disclose what has happened to them. Disclosure is especially difficult for children who may lack the language to speak about what happened, may have been threatened by the abuser or may fear not being believed if they do disclose. Survivors of incest/CSA may only speak up about their abuse years after it takes place. Some may never reveal it at all. It takes an enormous amount of courage to speak about one’s own abuse.

Recognising & Ending Incest/CSA #5: The majority of cases of incest/CSA are unreported. The rate of reporting of incest/CSA cases is even lower than the rate of disclosure. Fear of social stigma, the complexity of the victim’s feelings for her abuser and the daunting process of navigating the criminal justice system all contribute to the hesitation to report abuse.

Recognising & Ending Incest/CSA #6: Survivors of incest/CSA may remember the abuse months, years or decades after it happened. Survivors may suppress memories of their abuse and how it made them feel. Some may not even recall having been sexually abused. However, these memories may be triggered by events or experiences that take place later in the survivor’s life.

Recognising & Ending Incest/CSA #7: Incest/CSA has a long term impact on a woman’s emotional, mental and sexual health. Survivors of incest/CSA deal with comments like ‘It happened so long ago – it’s no big deal’ or ‘ just get over it’. However, when left unchecked, the impact of incest/CSA manifests in adulthood in the form of low self-esteem, relationship issues, eating disorders, self-harm or other destructive behaviours, and more.

Recognising & Ending Incest/CSA #8: Recovery is possible. Survivors do not have to live with the effects of incest/CSA all their lives. Counselling that focuses on recovery and healing from the abuse empowers a survivor to acknowledge what happened and decide to act to reclaim their lives. Through the healing process, survivors are able to move beyond the abuse and build fulfilling lives for themselves.

Part 2: Things You Can Do About Incest/CSA

Incest/CSA can be identified and prevented. It is the responsibility of the adults in a child’s life to identify signs of abuse or distress and take action. Here are 8 things you can do to prevent incest/CSA:

Recognising & Ending Incest/CSA #9: Accept and believe that incest/CSA could happen in your own family or home. While we want to believe that incest/CSA doesn’t or would never happen in our family, by denying the possibility that our own home could be unsafe for a child we make the space even more unsafe. When we believe that incest/CSA is as likely to happen in our own homes as anywhere else, we can take the necessary precautions to create safe spaces for children and decrease the risk of incest/CSA happening.

Recognising & Ending Incest/CSA #10: Seek help for your own abuse, if any. If you are a survivor of incest/CSA yourself, it is possible that the impact of your own abuse is affecting your behaviour. Survivors may show overprotective or overcautious behaviour that may end up hindering children’s development rather than enabling their independence. When you have resolved the issues around your own abuse, you will be better equipped to take the steps needed to prevent incest/CSA .

Recognising & Ending Incest/CSA #11: Watch out for signs. While children may not be able to disclose that they are being abused, certain behaviours or signs, such as inappropriate sexual behaviour with other children or writing stories about sex or abuse, indicate that the child is facing sexual abuse. More general symptoms such as frequent illnesses, withdrawal and isolation, and eating disturbances are also signs of distress in a child.

Recognising & Ending Incest/CSA #12: Educate yourself. Read about incest/CSA on the Internet and follow organisations working on the issue on Facebook and Twitter. If there is an organisation near you working on incest/CSA you can volunteer with them or see if they are holding any workshops and training programmes that you can attend (you can reach out to RAHI Foundation for information by writing in to info@rahifoundation.org). When fighting to end incest/CSA, a sound education on the subject is the most formidable weapon in your arsenal.

Recognising & Ending Incest/CSA #13: Talk to children about sexuality and boundaries. Children should grow up knowing that sex is not something to be embarrassed or ashamed about. It is up to us to teach them their rights and tell them that it’s OK to say ‘no’ – even to an adult. Children should also know who they can go to in case someone does something to them that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Recognising & Ending Incest/CSA #14: Create a safe space for children. Make sure you create an environment in which children and their opinions are valued and respected. In a safe space, a child is not fearful of approaching an adult or wary that she might be reprimanded or punished for saying what she feels. A child that is involved and treated as a vital part of the community – whether it is within the home, school, or any other setting – is more likely to be able to tell a trusted adult if she is being abused.

Recognising & Ending Incest/CSA #15: Talk about it. Since so many cases of child sexual abuse are cases of incest, bringing incest/CSA into everyday conversation challenges the very foundation of the family unit, making it an issue people are reluctant to talk about. This, of course, makes it all the more necessary to talk about it. Talk about incest/CSA as you talk about current events with family and friends, take part in online campaigns and conversations around the issue, and if you have any influence in the media (especially social media), make it a part of your agenda to include the topic in your public conversations whenever possible.

Recognising & Ending Incest/CSA #16: Know how to react. In order to prevent incest/CSA from recurring you need to know what to do when a child discloses their sexual abuse to you. The most important thing to do is to believe the child. Reassure her that she did the right thing in coming to you and that the abuse was not her fault. When you take action, make sure you tell the child what action you are taking. If she feels you are talking about the abuse behind her back, she will feel like she did something wrong. Involve the child and respect her feelings when deciding on what course of action you will take.

The Pixel Project Selection 2017: 16 Notable Facebook Pages by Anti-Violence against Women Organisations

Since it was founded in 2004, Facebook has become a social media powerhouse with over 1.94 billion monthly active users as of June 2017. Facebook has grown from a basic social connection website to a life platform. It is used to find, connect and catch up with friends, to read the news, to conduct business, to shop, and to learn.

Facebook is also used to find causes, organisations, and events that are important to us and to advocate for various issues. Now Facebook users can learn about and support global issues from their own homes. Violence against women (VAW) is one of the global human rights issues finding supporters on Facebook. Now, a story about VAW can be read, watched, or heard via Facebook by millions of people around the globe. They can follow organisational news, participate in grassroots campaigns, and donate right from their mobile phone or computer.

More importantly, more than a billion Facebook members worldwide can now locate anti-VAW organisations’ Facebook pages to learn about VAW or quietly get VAW victims and survivors the help they need should they be unable to speak on the phone or otherwise physically get help. Every little bit helps!

This is our sixth annual list of 16 recommended Facebook pages which we have selected because of their unique approach to fighting all kinds of VAW. To make it as representative as possible the selection covers a wide range of countries across different continents. So choose a couple to ‘like’, or better yet ‘like’ them all, get informed, and take action.

Introduction by Rebecca DeLuca and Maria del Rio; Written and compiled by Maria del Rio with additional content by Regina Yau.

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Recommended Facebook Page #1: Afghan Women’s Writing Project – Afghanistan

The Afghan Women’s Writing Project reaches out to women teachers in the United States and engages them, on a volunteer rotation basis, to mentor Afghan women online. The aim of this project is to encourage women to share their stories from their unique perspectives, as sharing is itself a healing process and also a way of helping other women understand their own issues and problems. The blog aims at raising awareness while protecting the privacy of the courageous women who contribute to it. The importance of this blog is four-fold: it helps women feel proud of their stories and heritage, it educates people about Afghan women’s lives under the Taliban and their current issues, it is a method to document their present lives, and it promotes a positive link between Afghans and Americans that goes beyond what they have heard of each other’s countries.

Recommended Facebook Page #2: Edinburgh Women’s Aid – Scotland

At the Edinburgh Women’s Aid they believe that our society should be free from domestic abuse and that women and children deserve to live their lives without fear or violence. With over 40 years of experience, they provide practical and emotional support to women, children and young people at risk of domestic abuse and raise awareness by providing emotional and practical support to survivors. More importantly, their motto is to never judge anyone that reaches out for help, respecting women and their personal choices and providing them with resources.

Recommended Facebook Page #3: EVE Organization for Women’s Development – South Sudan

EVE Organization for Women Development was founded by South Sudanese women from many Sudanese Universities who came together to help transform the lives of women in South Sudan. Because of political instability, they focus their work on women’s peace and security, and socio-economic stability. However, they have gone further and are pushing for women’s participation and inclusion in decision-making and peace processes, as they understand women need to be part of the negotiations in order to achieve positive impact. They focus their community work on issues of utmost importance in South Sudan: fostering school attendance and promoting girls to go back to school, societal perception of women and their roles in the community, economic empowerment, and training and awareness for capacity building.

Recommended Facebook Page #4: Kvenréttindafélag Íslands (The Icelandic Women’s Rights Association) – Iceland and the Nordic countries

This non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Reykjavík, Iceland works on combating online VAW (including revenge porn) and has been fighting for women’s rights and gender equality since 1907. In spite of Iceland being the best country for gender equality (according to the Global Gender Gap Index), not a single territory on this planet has achieved full equality. Founded by Bríet Bjarnhéðinsdóttir, a woman who fought for suffrage rights, its focus now is on increasing women‘s representation in parliament and other leadership positions in big organisations. They also elaborate reports for the Icelandic parliament and other ministers and lobby to make gender studies a mandatory subject in secondary schools, and raise awareness about harassment and violence against women online. Moreover, they celebrate women‘s history in Iceland and support women‘s culture and women artists all year round by hosting open meetings, conferences, seminars, and other events.

Recommended Facebook Page #5: Liberty from Violence – Australia

Liberty from Violence is the newest of the chosen organisations for this year, aiming not only at raising awareness against gender violence, but also fundraising. The money raised will be used to fill in the gaps in the survivors’ paths, and they are doing so by researching current available resources in Wagga Wagga, Australia, and matching them with the current needs of the survivors. There are three programs: providing support for survivors of domestic violence (women, mothers with children and youth); supporting local refugees to help them settle, and providing funds for emergency relief purposes for survivors of domestic violence so that they don’t have to return to a violent home.

Recommended Facebook Page #6: Namibia Women’s Health Network (NWHN) – Namibia

Namibia Women’s Health Network (NWHN) is a community-based organisation, with a group of fourteen women who registered with the Ministry of Health and Social Services in 2007 to empower those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS in Namibia. They currently work with civil society organisations and the national and local governments to address the issues faced by HIV positive women in Namibia. The network currently connects 1400 members across the 13 regions of Namibia to disseminate accurate information on sexual reproductive health, prevention of mother to child transmission, cervical cancer, etc. Moreover, among other services, they guide women on organisations fighting gender-based violence and sensitising community members, policy makers, and traditional leaders on issues affecting women living with HIV.

Recommended Facebook Page #7: Nisaa Institute for Women’s Development – South Africa

They host numerous campaigns online, with the aim of raising awareness and educating people on forms of violence against women. Currently, the organisation is running a campaign on sexual consent called “Consent is Sexy!” Their unique approach is their two-fold strategy: consent not only in more casual encounters but also the importance of consent in marriages. They also host a radio program with 30-minute episodes centered on issues faced by women in their community, with the aim of encouraging open and honest talks about gender and violence against women while educating the listeners. Their third campaign is about date rape but tackles issues beyond consent such as HIV/AIDS, dating tips and support strategies for the rape survivor.

Recommended Facebook Page #8: Red Thread Women: Crossroads Women’s Centre – Guyana

Founded in 1986 (and available on Facebook chat) the Red Thread is a grassroots organisation that works with women to better their life conditions, bridging the gap between differences to transform their status. They work with women and children who have suffered the consequences of unequal distribution of power in their society and provide them with tools to help them change the power differences from within their relationships. They approach topics of world-wide interest from a local perspective: from the gender pay gap to fighting all kinds of violence against women, to foster unity and defy fights inside society.

Recommended Facebook Page #9: The RAHI Foundation –– India

RAHI, a non-profit organisation based in New Delhi, India, is a one-of-a-kind organisation in the country: it works with adult women survivors of incest and childhood sexual abuse, and offers services by providing individual and group services for survivors aimed at their psychological, emotional, sexual and spiritual recovery. Moreover, it also works with girls who have experienced child sexual abuse, works to raise awareness about incest and other forms of child sexual abuse, and offers advice to other organisations that want to start support groups in other parts of India. Furthermore, whenever they have a person online, Facebook chat shows the following message: “RAHI Foundation is active now. Start a conversation” so that visitors can chat.

Recommended Facebook Page #10: WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre – Canada

The WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre focuses on ending all forms of violence against women by challenging the status quo and the way we think about and look at things. They provide support and healing therapies to help survivors of sexualised violence and help them develop leadership for prevention of future violence. Moreover, they promote legal, social, and attitudinal changes to dismantle systemic oppression of women that perpetuates violence. Moreover, they welcome all Facebook users to engage in conversation with them, however, they are also very strict: any hateful, women-blaming comments are deleted and the user will be banned from their Facebook page.

Recommended Facebook Page #11: Women’s Aid Leicestershire Limited – England

Women’s Aid Leicestershire Limited provides free and confidential support to survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence on their journey to empowerment and also to prevent future violence. When necessary they provide survivors with safe shelter, and they also offer counseling for women and children survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence.

Recommended Facebook Page #12: Women Against Violence Association – Jordan

WAV’s mission is not only to address all kind of violence against women, but also to promote the ways in which women and their roles promote building healthy societies. Moreover, due to Jordan’s geopolitical situation, WAV also has a special chapter on terrorism, from clarifying concepts to exposing motivations to helping prevent attacks. WAV is trying to reach as many survivors as possible through different activities such as publishing articles and other stories, communication strategies, and conferences. Both their Facebook and their website are in Arabic with limited information in English.

Recommended Facebook Page #13: WomenPowerConnect – India

WomenPowerConnect is a non-profit NGO that works to foster women’s empowerment and gender justice. They work to ensure the effective implementation of gender-friendly legislation and the active participation of women in policy outcomes regarding women’s representation in Parliament, budget, prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace, and fighting sex- selective abortions, among other issues. In order to achieve their objectives, they have formed an alliance of over 1000 women’s groups and individuals from all over India to work together raising awareness about women’s issues and therefore influencing legislators and policy makers to create and implement gender friendly policies.

Recommended Facebook Page #14: Women’s Refuge New Zealand – New Zealand

Women’s Refuge is the largest NGO in New Zealand dedicated to the prevention of domestic violence, with a network of 45 affiliated women’s refuges in the country. They also offer women and children a helpline, where they answer almost seven calls every hour. Centred around building a country free from domestic and family violence, they aim to empower women and children to live free of domestic and family violence through social change fostered by education and advocacy. They also have a new program, named Whanau Project, that helps domestic violence survivors at risk of re-victimisation or further attacks to upgrade their homes with state of the art technology to help them safely stay at their place.

Recommended Facebook Page #15: Women Under Siege – International

This journalism project investigates and writes about how sexual violence including rape, was and is being used as a tool in genocide and conflict in the 20th and 21st centuries. It was created by Gloria Steinem, and building on the investigations of Sonja Hedgepeth and Rochelle Saidel (who wrote about sexual violence against Jewish women during the Holocaust and the studies of Danielle McGuire who wrote about sexual violence against black women in the USA). The project started with the intention of understanding our past so that we can prevent our societies from making the same mistakes and with the hypothesis that the gender-based violence that happened in Bosnia and Democratic Republic of the Congo’s conflicts could have been prevented from happening. They have a special chapter documenting sexual violence in Syria through a live crowdsourced map at: https://womenundersiegesyria.crowdmap.com

Recommended Facebook Page #16: The “Women Won’t Wait” Campaign – Latin American Region

This bilingual campaign is hosted in Spanish and English to reach Latin American women across borders. It’s an international coalition of women’s organisations that fosters inclusivity and diversity among its members to gather together talent, perspective and energy to promote a general switch in how societies perceive HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence. The campaign researches the links between gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS and to help break the circle with the aim to help empower women and girls with HIV/AIDS to reduce their vulnerability, by working to change policies and societal views on the issue.

16 Self-Care Ideas for Anti-Violence Against Women Activists and Advocates

To be an activist or advocate working to bring about positive social change in communities worldwide is to have one of the most rewarding jobs in the world as one is helping to usher in and build a kinder, more just and more equitable world for all. However, change is also difficult and slow to bring about, frequently requiring long hours at work, dealing with individuals and communities that are entrenched in their ways, and a long-term single-minded commitment to the cause. This makes social justice work daunting, stressful, exhausting and sometimes downright dangerous.

Activists and advocates working on women’s rights and issues face a particularly uphill battle due to a combination of job hazards: not only are women’s human rights activists and organisations some of the most severely underfunded in the world but female women’s human rights activists and advocates also frequently receive everything from death threats to rape threats as a routine job hazard. Some are murdered or raped in order to silence their changemaking efforts. For those who remain alive and fighting on, the potential for burnout is particularly high due to a combination of overwork, financial stress and constant harassment from the patriarchal establishment.

To counteract and stave off burnout while carrying on fighting the good fight, activists and advocates need to take care of themselves but many struggle to do so because of the overwhelming demands on their time and energy by the cause.

Nevertheless, self-care doesn’t have to be an insurmountable obstacle, nor does it require lots of time and money. In fact, one of the key ways to integrate self-care into your routine is to make it part of your daily rituals. So here are 16 ways you can care for yourself wherever you are, without disrupting your everyday life. This list is by no means comprehensive and not every suggestion may fit every activist or advocate, but we hope it’s a good starting point.

Introduction by Regina Yau; Written and compiled by Elizabeth DeHoff and Regina Yau

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Part 1: Back To Basics

Self-Care Suggestion #1: Sleep Is Sacred

Countless studies have found that inadequate or poor sleep can throw everything else in your life off-kilter. One recent report indicated that even just 6 hours sleep is not enough. Try to stick to a regular bedtime and practice good sleep hygiene including making sure you have at least 30 minutes of quiet time to wind down before bedtime. Disengage your mind from work if you can. If you have a smartphone, tablet or laptop, banish screens from your sleeping area for at least an hour before you go to sleep – or use apps that gradually shift the light on your screens from blue (which keeps you awake) to orange (which signals your brain to slow down).

Self-Care Suggestion #2: Nourish Yourself

A big part of staying healthy while on the job is to eat as well as you are able to within your budget and circumstances. Eat fresh food and home-cooked meals whenever you can – learn the basics of cooking if you don’t already cook for yourself. Choose wisely if you have to eat out. And to keep your energy and concentration levels constant and optimal, try not to skip the main meals of the day. At the very least, take your lunch hour – both to have some food as well as some mid-day breathing space from work. Going on a diet? Make sure to get professional guidance from your doctor or dietitian to ensure that you’re getting the nourishment that you need.

Self-Care Suggestion #3: Bathe Your Cares Away

Whether you start or end your day with a shower or bath, you can integrate elements that soothe your senses: a fragrant soap, candles, a hair treatment, soothing music. If you’re going to be in the shower anyway, you might as well make it a pleasant experience. In the evenings, warm showers can also help with relaxation. In addition, regular baths help ensure your personal hygiene is on point and one less thing to stress about.

Self-Care Suggestion #4: Get Moving

You don’t have to run a marathon in order to benefit from exercise. Even as little as 10 minutes a day can boost your mood and improve your cardiovascular health. When you’re at work, take a break every hour to walk up and down a flight of stairs or walk briskly around the block. Ideally, you should aim for 45 to 90 minutes of physical activity per day, but you don’t have to do it all at once – it can be easier to approach if you break it up into smaller blocks. Even if you don’t have time for a full-on workout, you can set aside five or ten minutes to stretch every morning and evening. Your body will thank you! If you’re not sure how to get started, search YouTube or Vimeo for instructional videos.

Self-Care Suggestion #5: Get Out and About

Exposure to sunlight can boost your mood along with your Vitamin D levels. Try to get at least 10 minutes per day. Be sure to wear sunscreen and cover up, though – too much sun is the opposite of self-care! If you live in a place where you don’t get much sun, consider buying a SAD light, which mimics the positive effects of sun exposure indoors.

Take it a step further by searching for ways to connect with the natural world while getting your daily sunshine quota. Do you walk or bike to work? Detour through a park on your way. Do you spend most of your time at home? Cultivate a garden or even just a potted plant – any flower shop will be happy to sell you something low-maintenance if you have no talent for greenery.

Self-Care Suggestion #6: Get That Check-Up

Due to their hectic and overextended work schedules, one of the ways in which activists and advocates inadvertently slip up on their personal healthcare is to not go for their annual medical check-up. If you have done this in the past, try this: call your nearest clinic or general practice at the beginning of the year to set up an appointment for your annual check-up in January or February so you can get this done before the year gets underway and you get too busy. Alternatively, if you know your doctor well, ask them to send you a text message or email reminding you of your annual check-up. If you are a woman, remember to also schedule and attend an appointment to check your breasts and have a pap smear – it’s better to catch any health issues early.

Self-Care Suggestion #7: Define and Defend Your Day Off

With the lives of women and girls literally at stake, anti-violence against women activism is basically a round-the-clock job and many activists typically work a 7-day week, whether it’s helping women escape their abuser while he’s away one weekend, building a case against a rapist or handling intensive time-sensitive online petitions. Working non-stop for weeks or even months on end can result in burnout, so set aside one day a week to rest and recharge. If your schedule is irregular or includes shift or cyclical campaign work, make sure that you take at least a couple of days off per month. Set the date(s) then defend them from colleagues who ask to swap slots or any work matters that intrude on your time off.

Self-Care Suggestion #8: Curate Your Consumption

Today’s fast-paced hyperconnected social media-driven world is a double-edged sword. On one hand, social media provides opportunities for activists and advocates to campaign, educate, fundraise, and connect to the wider world at a keystroke. On the other hand, social media can batter everyone with a deluge horrible news, especially when high-profile VAW stories such as the Weinstein and Cosby cases or VAW-related hashtags such as #metoo and #notokay go viral. While it’s imperative for activists and advocates to stay aware of developments in order to respond accordingly, make sure you carve out some news-free time to avoid the information overload and unwarranted emotional and psychological stress from a negative news cycle. Curate what you watch for entertainment too – for example: if you work for rape crisis services, try to avoid watching movies and series or reading books where rape is featured as it may compound the secondary PTSD you face from work.

Part 2: Beyond The Basics

Self-Care Suggestion #9: Meditate (or Get Spiritual)

Meditation requires no special skills, and you can do it anywhere: at home, at work, on the bus or train, in bed. New to meditation? Free or low-cost apps and websites like Headspace can guide you through the basics. If you don’t fancy meditating but are religious, try dedicating even a few minutes a day to quiet prayer to clear your mind and focus your faith, especially when times are tough on the work front – regardless of your religion you will benefit from having a moment each day to just breathe and connect with your spiritual side.

Self-Care Suggestion #10: Harness the Power of Music

Humans have used music as an emotional outlet or a way to regulate emotions for centuries. Make a playlist of music that soothes you, or look for mood-based playlists on services like Spotify or Pandora. And don’t be afraid to sing along if the urge hits you! If you do perform music, be it playing a musical instrument, singing, or even DJ-ing, be sure to work time into your weekly schedule to do so be it private violin practice time, singing with the local choir or DJ-ing at the local club.

Self-Care Suggestion #11: Get Artsy or Crafty

Creativity can be a satisfying outlet even if you aren’t particularly skilled. You don’t have to make a quilt or crochet a pair of socks – the main idea is to create something even if it’s small or flawed or simple. Ready to level up? Channel your emotions into your crafts by making a naughty cross-stitch or clever protest signs.

Not a fan of crafts? Then tap into your inner artist – write, sculpt, dance, paint. As with crafts, your art can act as an emotional safety valve that will help you express your stress, fear, sadness, and anger safely and effectively.

Self-Care Suggestion #12: Learn Something New

Take a few minutes each day to learn something new – your brain will be too busy processing the new information to dwell on things that are bothering you. Try an app like Duolingo, which will teach you a new language in a fun way, or take a free online course via Khan Academy.

Self-Care Suggestion #13: Animal Magnetism

Spend some time playing with a pet if you have one or watching cute animal videos if you don’t. Interacting with animals boosts the chemicals in your brain that trigger feelings of contentment. If you have some time to spare, see if your local animal shelter needs volunteers to take their dogs for walks! Bonus is that this ties in very neatly with Self-care Suggestion #4 and #5 to get enough exercise and to get fresh air and sunshine outdoors!

Self-Care Suggestion #14: Look Good, Feel good

Do something fun for your appearance – whatever form that takes for you! Treat yourself to a haircut. Paint your toenails a funky color. Pick up some cheap yet chic lip gloss from the drugstore. Wear a skirt that makes you feel awesome about yourself (or your favorite pair of Doc Martens, or your sharpest suit, or your geekiest T-shirt). This isn’t about dressing up for other people – it’s all about YOU. Treat yourself!

Self-Care Suggestion #15: An Indulgent Cuppa

Sit down and enjoy your favorite drink. Coffee, tea, wine (in moderation) – any beverage that calms you can be turned into a ritual of enjoyment and luxury. Close your eyes and luxuriate in the taste, smell, texture and temperature. Enjoy something warm when the weather is chilly; indulge in a cool drink when it’s hot outside. If you’re feeling sociable, share the experience with a friend or your partner. Stopping for a relaxing cup of coffee or tea at some point during the day is also a way to mark a few minutes of time out from a hectic day.

Self-Care Suggestion #16: Small Random Acts of Kindness

Brighten up someone else’s day! Buy coffee for the person behind you in the queue, write a thank-you note to someone who inspires you, offer to watch a neighbor’s kids for a few hours so they can take a break – the goal is to do something nice for another person… within reason. Don’t martyr yourself. Kindness can be self-care as long as you set reasonable limits on it.

Most of all – be kind to yourself… because that is what self-care is all about.

The Pixel Project Selection 2017: 16 Notable Anti-VAW Activists and Organisations You Should Follow on Twitter

In a hyperconnected world that is increasingly dominated by virtual communities and online news, social media has become a major influencer on and driver of how we understand activism and politics in this day and age. This has been made possible by organisations and individual activists taking to social media to expand on their anti-Violence Against Women (anti-VAW) work, putting it to work for the cause in different ways. Among the many social media platforms available, Twitter is a go-to for many people to get news updates, to find out the opinions of specialists working in a particular area about the latest happenings, and to share or engage with discussions online.

Using Twitter, anti-VAW organisations and individual activists and advocates are now able to raise awareness about issues happening in their own community in a way that is accessible  worldwide to anyone with an internet connection. Consequently, Twitter has become a helpful tool – acting as a free impromptu newsfeed for anybody wanting or needing to keep up-to-date with the anti-VAW work of various organisations and activists globally. With just a quick search for the hashtag – #vaw, for example –  a user can be acquainted with a lot of what people are doing in this area in various parts of the world and also contribute/engage in various ways with the cause.

With that in mind, The Pixel Project presents our 2017 Twitter selection to make your task easier by helping you sort your search. We narrowed down the many incredible organisations and individuals involved in the cause to end violence against women to the 16 listed below. These are organisations, grassroots groups, and people who will keep you informed simply because they share the passion to create a better tomorrow for girls and women everywhere.

Introduction by Rebecca DeLuca and Adishi Gupta; Written and compiled by Adishi Gupta.

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Twitter Follow Recommendation 1: Against Violence & Abuse (@AVAproject) – United Kingdom

AVA Project is an independent charity that aims to put an end to gender-based violence and abuse in the UK. It is a survivor-centred organisation driven by and according to the needs and comfort of survivors. The AVA Project’s Twitter account regularly posts updates about its work and also about the work by and information from various other anti-VAW organisations in the UK and beyond.

Twitter Follow Recommendation 2: Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (@GAATW_IS) – Thailand

GAATW is an independent network of anti-human trafficking non-governmental organisations from around the world. It works with trafficked and migrant women around the world and is is committed to galvanising change in the economic, political, social and legal systems and structures that contribute to the persistence of trafficking. GAATW’s Twitter account informs its followers about their latest events and programmes while disseminating useful information and articles about human trafficking worldwide.

Twitter Follow Recommendation 3: Global Network of Women’s Shelters (@WomensShelters) – International

Global Network of Women’s Shelters aims to unite the women’s shelter movement globally in order to put an end to violence against women and their children. Their Twitter account updates its followers about its global conferences about ending VAW, and useful information about the various kinds of violence women are subjected to, its effects on survivors, and the ways to combat it.

 

Twitter Follow Recommendation 4: Her Zimbabwe (@herzimbabwe) – Zimbabwe

Her Zimbabwe is a digital media publishing platform that aims to share and foreground the stories of Zimbabwean women. It publishes Zimbabwean women’s stories and voices across various categories and is a great platform to learn about their stuggles in dealing with different kinds of structural violence, including those rooted in patriarchy and racism. Her Zimbabwe’s Twitter account shares updates not just about their published articles but also about articles and information from various other platforms.

Twitter Follow Recommendation 5: Mama Cash (@mamacash) – Netherlands

Mama Cash is an international funding organisation that supports women’s, girls’ and trans people’s human rights and social justice movements around the world. Diversity is at the heart of its values and thus it supports and promotes initiatives for and by women from different sexualities, ethnicities and professions. Mama Cash’s Twitter timeline keeps its followers updated about anti-VAW news and activism by various organisations and individuals around the world. They also use their Twitter account to announce any upcoming grant application opportunities for organisations to apply for so that they can carry on with their work to fight VAW without running out of financial resources.

Twitter Follow Recommendation 6: Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) – Cairo

Mona Eltahawy, the author of “Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution,” is a public speaker and New York Times columnist focused on Arab and Muslim issues. Named one of the “150 Fearless Women of 2015” by Newsweek magazine, she is fierce in her fight against Islamophobia, violence against women, and control on women’s sexuality, and many other human rights issues. Her Twitter account is an excellent resource for  women’s rights activists and their supporters who are looking for incisive feminist commentary.

Twitter Follow Recommendation 7: Nighat Dad (@nighatdad) – Pakistan

Nighat Dad is the Executive Director of the NGO, Digital Rights Foundation in Pakistan. She is an accomplished lawyer and a human rights activist. She works at a policy level on a wide range of issues like Internet Freedom, Women and technology, Digital Security and Women’s empowerment. Ms. Dad was included in Next Generation Leaders List by TIME’s magazine for her work on helping women fight online harassment in 2015 and was awarded the Dutch government’s Human Rights Tulip awards last year.

Twitter Follow Recommendation 8: Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (@OCTEVAW) – Canada

OCTEVAW is a nonprofit, non-partisan coalition of organisations working in the areas of feminism, anti-racism, and LGBTQ+ rights with the aim of ending gender-based violence. Its work ranges from advocacy to public education to movement-building. It does so by closing down the gaps between frontline service providers, policy makers, and the justice system via collaborating to address problems, develop educational programmes, and serve the community through political action and advocacy. Their Twitter account is a useful resource for survivors to find crisis helpline numbers and for updates on the anti-gender-based violence work of the various members of this coalition.

Twitter Follow Recommendation 9: PCVC (@pcvc2000) – India

PCVC is a nonprofit service provider for women in India who are affected by violence. They offer a wide range of services to survivors, including crisis management, legal advocacy, support and resource services. Their mission is to help rebuild lives damaged by abusive family relationships. They do so by facilitating the process of self-empowerment for women survivors of family violence. PCVC’s Twitter account regularly posts news updates related to incidents of VAW across the country, about their crisis helpline numbers and their anti-VAW work with the survivors.

Twitter Follow Recommendation 10: Rashi Vidyasagar (@mizarcle) – India

Rashi Vidyasagar is a criminologist by education and feminist crisis interventionist by training. She has provided emergency psycho-social support to survivors of sexual and domestic violence and has worked with both the Indian health and the criminal justice system to make them more survivor-centric. At present, she leads multiple teams of social workers across states who provide psycho-socio-legal support to survivors of violence in police stations. On Twitter, she talks about the role of the state in responding to and preventing violence against women and connects women asking for help with organisations who can provide help.

Twitter Follow Recommendation 11: SAFE Ireland (@SAFEIreland) – Ireland

SAFE Ireland is the national social change agency working to end domestic violence in Ireland through the use of innovative and strategic methods to transform society’s response to cases of gender-based violence. While it started out as a network of service providers, SAFE now works in close collaboration with with forty domestic violence services across communities in the country. SAFE’s Twitter account has updates about its various anti-VAW activities and useful information from other anti-VAW organisations.

Twitter Follow Recommendation 12: Sisters Uncut (@sistersglasgow) – Scotland

Sisters Uncut is a feminist group standing united with all self-identified women against domestic violence and all the other types of violence they undergo on an everyday basis. It strongly believes that safety is not a privilege and focuses on women having to live in domestic abuse situations. It is an intersectional feminist organisation and understands that every woman’s experience of violence is affected by her race, class, disability, sexuality and immigration status. Sisters Uncut’s Twitter account focuses on tweeting out informative posts on its anti-VAW work in the form of interactive posters as well as updates from various other anti-VAW organisations.

Twitter Follow Recommendation 13: The Establishment (@ESTBLSHMNT) – United States of America

The Establishment is an intersectional feminist media publishing platform that is funded and run by women. It publishes new articles everyday on various topics relevant to women including violence against women, sexuality, society, among others. The Establishment’s Twitter timeline is updated daily with new content covering feminist topics that are of interest for feminists and anyone who is interested in women’s human and civil rights issues.

 

Twitter Follow Recommendation 14: The Kering Foundation (@KeringForWomen) – International

The Kering Foundation works to combat violence against women in three different areas of the world: the Americas, Western Europe and Asia. It structures its work around three key aspects: supporting NGOs, awarding social entrepreneurs and organising awareness campaigns. Their Twitter account posts regular updates about cases of violence against women around the world and the efforts of various organisations to combat the violence.

 

Twitter Follow Recommendation 15: The Tempest (@WeAreTheTempest) – United States of America

The Tempest is a technology and media publishing platform by and for diverse millennial women, with a reach of millions of millennials per month. They ‘empower, disrupt, and amplify’ all at once. It was started with the aim of filling the gaps in the popular narrative about lives of diverse women belonging to underrepresented backgrounds. The Tempest’s Twitter account has updates not only about its various insightful articles and news, but also relevant content from other organisations concerning issues affecting women and girls.

Twitter Follow Recommendation 16:  Wear Your Voice (@WearYourVoice) – United States of America

Wear Your Voice Magazine is an American intersectional feminist media publication whose mission is to deconstruct mainstream media’s approach to news and culture through an intersectional feminist point of view. It covers a wide range of issues like women’s human rights, LGBTQIA rights, race and gender, body politics, sex, and entertainment. It publishes and writes about violence against People of Colour (POC) in general and Women of Colour (WOC) in particular. Its Twitter account is a helpful go-to for reading their articles as well as relevant information and articles from other publications about the issues that they cover.

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Photo Credits:

  1. Mona Eltahawy: From “Mona Eltahawy’s sexual revolution manifesto for Arab women” (rightnow.org)
  2. Nighat Dad: From https://twitter.com/nighatdad
  3. Rashi Vidyasagar: Courtesy of Rashi Vidyasagar

The Pixel Project Selection 2017: 16 Male Role Models Helping to Stop Violence against Women

Violence Against Women (VAW) is largely deemed as a women’s issue to be tackled by women and for women. However, VAW has a negative impact on entire communities and societies and is therefore impossible to eradicate without having men and boys on board efforts to do so. For this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence campaign, we present our second edition of  ’16 Male Role Models Helping to Stop Violence Against Women’ which features a diverse list of men who are doing their bit towards a more gender-equal world.

The men in this list believe that ending VAW is a fight and issue that should involve everyone and not just women. Many of these men are activists who have recognised that toxic masculinity and patriarchy are harmful to young boys and men. They are working directly with boys and men to empower them in order to prevent VAW from the roots. The list also looks at men who have spoken up against VAW through various mediums like demonstrations and music, using their voice to show their solidarity and bring issues of gender-based violence to the forefront. In this post-Weinstein world where so many prominent men have been revealed as domestic abusers and sexual predators, we hope our second edition of 16 male role models against violence against women will provide living examples of positive masculinity that inspire and galvanise men and boys worldwide to become a part of the solution.

It’s time to stop violence against women. Together.

Note: Information for all role model profiles is sourced via online research and is based on one or more news sources, articles and/or The Pixel Project’s own interviews with them. The main articles/reports from which these profiles have been sourced can be directly accessed via the hyperlinked titles. Please do click through to learn more about these remarkable men.

Written, researched, and compiled by Rubina Singh.

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Male Role Model #1: Ahmed Hegab – Egypt
After witnessing a young woman being assaulted by a mob of men on the street, Ahmed Hegab knew he had to do something. Speaking to USA Today, Ahmed shares, “I decided right there and then to quit my job and do everything I could to stop harassment.” Ahmed started volunteering with Harassmap and also started Men Engage, a program that trains men to stop gender-based violence and raise their voices for women’s empowerment.

Male Role Model #2: Ali Erkazan – Turkey
After the murder and attempted rape of a university student, Ali Erkazan, a Turkish actor, along with a number of other men expressed their anger through a public demonstration. The men dressed in mini-skirts to show their solidarity and demanded harsher punishment for VAW. Demanding stricter laws, Ali shares, “The absence of deterrent laws encourages them. Even the people in the government make incentive statements about the inequality of men and women under the name of Islam. We also condemn them.

Male Role Model #3: Chris Green – United Kingdom
Chris Green is the Director of the White Ribbon Campaign in the UK. The White Ribbon Campaign encourages men and boys to speak up against VAW. Chris is also a member of the UK End Violence Against Women Expert Advisory Group and the End Violence against Women Prevention Working Party. For his notable efforts, Chris has been awarded one of the highest honours in the UK – Order of the British Empire.

Male Role Model #4: Dean Peacock – South Africa
Ashoka fellow Dean Peacock is challenging gender inequality in South Africa by engaging men and boys in the fight against VAW. Dean is the Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of Sonke Gender Justice Network, which works to strengthen government, civil society and citizen capacity to support men and boys to take action to promote gender equality, prevent domestic and sexual violence, and reduce the spread and impact of HIV and AIDS. Dean is also the Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the MenEngage Alliance and a member of the UN Secretary General’s Network of Men Leaders.

Male Role Model #5: Dr. Ganesh Rakh – India
In a country where girls face GBV even before they are born, Dr. Ganesh Rakh is doing his part to ensure that girls at least get a fighting chance. Noting the high rate of female feticide and infanticide, Ganesh initiated a campaign “Mulgi Vachva Abhiyan” (Save the Girl Child) in his city. While most doctors increase their fees over time, Ganesh decided that he would not charge any fee from the family if a girl child was born. Not only that, his hospital also celebrates the birth of every girl child. His ultimate aim: “I want to change attitudes – of people, doctors. The day people start celebrating a daughter’s birth, I’ll start charging my fee again.”

Male Role Model #6: Edgar Ramirez – Venezuela
Edgar Ramirez is an actor, producer, and activist from Venezuela. As a HeForShe advocate, he spoke about the impact that gender inequality has on boys and men, “In the journey for equality, women and men are like two strands of DNA wrapped together in an embrace. Our burdens are as intertwined as our common destiny. The constraints that burden me will eventually burden you. And the same is true in reverse: as long as you are burdened, I am too. By recognizing this inter-dependence, I can work for your well-being and know that I am also working towards my own. I can know that whatever action I take to free you, also frees me. This is not just what makes us human. This is what makes us a human family.

Male Role Model #7: Fang Gang – China
Fang Gang is the Director of the Institute of Sexuality and Gender Study at the Beijing Forestry University. He is also the Director of the China White Ribbon Volunteers Network. Through his work, Fang Gang is attempting to reduce the taboo around sexuality, and challenge accepted norms of masculinity in China. Sharing his views in an interview with Vice, Fang said, “I want to encourage men to be involved in promoting gender equality, including taking care of children, sharing housework, and fighting against job discrimination. In the past our work focused on people who committed violence and their victims, now we want to go back further and target regular people, asking what we should do to prevent men from committing violence in the first place.”

Male Role Model #8: Feđa Mehmedović – Bosnia and Herzegovina
Feđa Mehmedović is the Project Coordinator with the XY Association and winner of a competition promoting gender equality in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Stories of Real Men. Hecworks with men and boys to change their attitude and behaviour towards VAW. He has trained more than 10,000 young people as part of his Young Men as Allies programme in preventing violence against women. Feđa is also an advocate for the UN HeForShe campaign.

Male Role Model #9: Gary Barker – Brazil
Involving men and boys in the fight against VAW is imperative and Gary Barker has been doing just that through his organisation, Promundo. His work has been recognised by organisations such as Ashoka and the United Nations. Explaining the philosophy behind Promundo, Gary shared the following insights in an interview: “We believed, from our direct experiences in working in violence prevention in favelas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, that we would only end violence and achieve equality if we engaged men as allies, as voices for change, and as activists in the process. We were also inspired by young and adult men who wanted to be part of the movement and who were already living out equitable, non-violent ways of being men.

Male Role Model #10: Jim C. Hines – USA
Jim C. Hines is a Hugo-award winning American Fantasy writer who has been doing his bit to end sexism in the science fiction/fantasy world. He noticed that many science-fiction and fantasy cover art overtly sexualies female characters. In an effort to bring attention to the issue, he decided to contort himself into the various poses that women are put into. But, his efforts go much beyond gender-flipped covers. After he found out about a friend’s rape, he decided to work towards ending VAW in different ways. He has previously worked as a crisis counsellor, written articles and a novel around VAW, and he is also one of the only authors whose website has an entire section dedicated to resources for survivors of rape and sexual assault. Jim has also actively supported The Pixel Project by being a part of our campaigns such as Read for Pixels.

Male Role Model #11: Michael Flood – Australia
Holding a PhD in Gender and Sexuality Studies, Michael Flood researches masculinity and violence prevention. His research indicates that a man’s understanding of masculinity can lead to VAW. In an interview with Huffington Post Australia, he says, “It’s very clear that if we compare the men that do use violence and the men that don’t, one key difference is in their ideas about being a man. Men (who) use violence are much more likely to be invested in the idea to be a man is to be in control, dominant and have power over women. Those ideas about masculinity link to broader patterns of gender inequality. And really, it’s gender inequality that shapes some men’s use of violence against women.

Male Role Model #12: Noel Cabangon – The Philippines
Music has the power to reach any corner of the world. Noel Cabangon, a Filipino singer and songwriter, used the power of music through his song Men Move to encourage men to “bring all violence against women to an end”. The song was originally written for the Philippine Commission of Women and was later adapted for the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign.

Male Role Model #13: Nur Hasyim – Indonesia
While he has been working for women’s rights for many years, in 2006, Nur Hasyim started working towards engaging men and boys to end VAW. He is the founder and head of ‘Aliansi Laki-Laki Baru’ (New Men Alliance) in Indonesia, a national pro-feminist men’s movement. His research in the field has led to the development of a curriculum towards behaviour change for male abusive partners. Recognising his work, Nur has been included by the United Nations in the Secretary General’s Network of Men Leaders.

Male Role Model #14: Ravi Karkara – United States of America and Worldwide
Ravi Karkara is Senior Advisor on Strategic Partnerships and Advocacy to the Assistant Secretary General to the UN and Deputy Executive Director, UN Women. Ravi has been fighting to end violence against women since the beginning of his career. Not only is he working with women, he also believes in the importance of working with men to end VAW. Ravi shared his views on working with boys and men in a recent interview: “While we need to teach women and girls how to fight for their human rights, we also need to focus on boys and change their attitudes towards girls and women.

Male Role Model #15: Salif Keita – Mali
Popularly known as the “Golden Voice of Africa”, Salif Keita has been using his art for activism. A vocal supporter of women’s rights, he has endorsed the UN HeforShe campaign as well. In a message for the campaign, Salif said, “The world is undergoing change and modernization in the right direction, and for every man who recognises the value and role of women, we must be sensitised to act for their well-being.”

Male Role Model #16: William Gay – United States of America
As a young boy, NFL Star William Gay lost his mother because of domestic violence. Having felt the impact of VAW so closely, William understands the need to end VAW. While William found professional success with NFL, he wanted to use his star power to shine a light on gender-based violence. Among many other initiatives, William supports the Women’s Center and Shelter in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. He uses his time at the shelter to speak to the survivors and share his story. In an interview with People Magazine, he shared, “I want people out there to know that someone in the NFL has been that child who lost their mother and is willing to do anything to end domestic violence.

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Photo Credits:

  1. Ahmed Hegab – from Linkedin.com
  2. Ali Erkazan – From Alticine.com
  3. Chris Green – From “Parliaments United In Combating Domestic Violence Against Women” (Council of Europe)
  4. Dean Peacock – From “Sonke Gender Justice”
  5. Dr. Ganesh Rakh – From “Ganesh Rakh: The doctor who delivers India’s girls for free” (Anushree Fadnavis/BBC News)
  6. Edgar Ramirez – From “Edgar Ramirez, Emma Watson use star power to push for gender equality at UN event” (Rob Kim/Fox News)
  7. Fang Gang – From “Fang Gang: Sex Education Should be Implemented Early” (Chinese Women’s Research Network)
  8. Feđa Mehmedović – From “Stories of Real Men – Feđa Mehmedović”
  9. Gary Barker – From “Network of Men Leaders” (UNiTE)
  10. Jim C. Hines – Courtesy of Jim C. Hines
  11. Michael Flood – From “Is ‘Engaging Men’ the Game Changer for Gender Equality” (Annual Diversity Debate)
  12. Noel Cabangon – From “Noel Cabangon ‘inspired’ by Pope Francis visit” (The Philippine Star)
  13. Nur Hasyim – From “World Press Freedom Day 2017” (UNESCO)
  14. Ravi Karkara – From “Meet the People Extraordinaire – Ravi Karkara” (Sayfty)
  15. Salif Keita – From “Salif Keita – The “Golden Voice of Africa”
  16. William Gay – From NFL star reveals heartbreaking moment he came home from school to discover his mother shot dead by his stepdad in murder-suicide

Transforming Personal Pain Into Positive Action: The Pixel Project’s 16 Female Role Models 2017

Today is the first day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence 2017 campaign and The Pixel Project is kicking things off with our 6th annual list of 16 female role models fighting to end violence against women in their communities. The intent of this list is simple: to highlight the good work of the heroines of the movement to end violence against women wherever they are in the world. The women and girls in this year’s list hail from 15 countries and 6 continents.

Many of these outstanding women and girls have shown that it is possible to transform personal pain that came out of facing gender-based violence, into positive action to stop violence against women, empower themselves and to show other survivors that it is possible to move forward with dignity and happiness. They have refused to let bitterness and pain get the better of them, opting to stand up for themselves and for other women and girls instead.

Others on this list may not have experienced gender-based violence inflicted on themselves but they have stepped up to do what is right: to speak up for women and girls who cannot do it for themselves, sometimes at great personal risk. All this requires immense courage, generosity of spirit and a strong, enduring heart.

Without further ado, here in alphabetical order by first name is our 2017 list of 16 female role models. We hope that these women would be an inspiration to others to get involved with the cause. To that end, we hope you will generously share this list via Facebook and Twitter to give these extraordinary 16 women and their work a moment in the sun.

It’s time to stop violence against women. Together.

Note: Information for all role model profiles is sourced via online research and is based on one or more news sources, articles and/or The Pixel Project’s own interviews with them. The main articles/reports from which these profiles have been sourced can be directly accessed via the hyperlinked titles. Please do click through to learn more about these remarkable women.

Written and compiled by Regina Yau

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Female Role Model 1: Ana Salvá – Spain

Bangkok-based Spanish freelance journalist Ana Salva arrived in Southeast Asia in 2014, eventually focusing on reporting about violence against women in Cambodia. In 2016, she began investigating the crime of forced marriage and forced pregnancy under the Khmer Rouge regime and its impact on the mental and physical health of women. This resulted in an incisive article published by The Diplomat – “The Forced Pregnancies of the Khmer Rouge”. She said: “The international criminal laws continue to lack [interest] to address gender crimes that have impacted women worldwide. And for forced pregnancy, a lot of cases are forgotten. No international courts have pursued forced pregnancy to date. That is the problem for the future too, I think.”

Female Role Model 2: Anuja Gupta – India

Anuja Gupta is one of India’s leading experts on the issue of incest/child sexual abuse. In 1996, at a time when no one in the country was talking about this taboo subject, Anuja started the non-profit RAHI Foundation, India’s first incest/child sexual abuse response organisation. RAHI’s work has laid the foundation for this issue to come to light and continues to shape the way it is addressed in the country. Anuja said: “Everyone has to make violence against women and children their issue and I think the strongest action we can take is to not lose momentum regardless of our social or political contexts. No matter how far away it may seem, always keep an eye on the goal of a world free of violence.”

Female Role Model 3: Carrie Goldberg – United States of America

Carrie Goldberg is a pioneer in the field of sexual privacy who uses her legal expertise and the law to defend victims of revenge porn and other forms of cyber violence against women. The impetus for starting her own firm to tackle the issue of online sexual privacy and harassment came when she was harassed by a vengeful ex who threatened to send intimate pictures she’d given him to her professional colleagues. Today, her law firm, C.A. Goldberg, PLLC focuses on Internet privacy and abuse, domestic violence, and sexual consent. Goldberg is also a Board Member and Volunteer Attorney at the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative and its End Revenge Porn campaign.

Female Role Model 4: Daisy Coleman – United States of America

Daisy Coleman was 14 when she was raped and left on her family’s front lawn in the small town where she grew up, enduring a backlash from the townsfolk who subjected her to intense victim-blaming, cyberbullying, and slut-shaming. Today, Coleman is an anti-sexual assault activist and co-founder of SafeBAE (Safe Before Anyone Else) to help prevent sexual violence and educate young people in the U.S. about the issue and to stand together with teen sex assault victims. As part of her work, she also appeared in Netflix’s documentary Audrie & Daisy about her experience.

Female Role Model 5: Hera Hussain – Pakistan and the United Kingdom

Hera Hussain is the founder of Chayn, a UK-based open source gender and tech project that builds platforms, toolkits, and runs hackathons to empower women facing violence and the organisations supporting them. Chayn’s resources and services include pro bono work for anti-violence against women organisations as well as a groundbreaking toolkit for women who want to build their own Domestic Violence case is so valuable to women who cannot afford legal representation. She says: “Tech gives us the chance to reach a wide audience on shoe-string budget and enable those women who are looking to understand what is happening to them and what to do about it.”

Female Role Model 6: Karla Jacinto – Mexico

Karla Jacinto was lured into forced prostitution at the age of 12 by a human trafficker who offered her money, gifts and the promise of a better life. By age 16, she estimates that she had been raped 43,200 times as she was forced to service up to 30 men a day daily for four years. Karla was rescued in 2008 as part of an anti-trafficking operation in Mexico City and is now fighting back against Mexico’s human trafficking crisis by raising awareness of how the criminals work so potential victims can spot red flags.

Female Role Model 7: Kerstin Weigl – Sweden

Kerstin Weigl is a journalist who has been awarded the “Lukas Bonnier´s Grand  Prize for Journalism” for her unique study of all the women who have died in Sweden as a result of violence in close relationships during the 2000s. The investigation was undertaken together with Kristina Edblom, for the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, uncovering and reporting the stories of 267 women since the series began. Kerstin is also the co-founder of Cause of Death: Woman, an investigative report on violence against women the US, South Africa, Egypt, Sweden, Pakistan, Mexico, Brazil, Congo, Spain and Russia.

Female Role Model 8: Malebogo Malefhe – Botswana

In 2009, Malebogo Malefhe was shot eight times by her boyfriend, putting her in a wheelchair for life. Malefhe, a former basketball player for Botswana’s national team, has devoted herself to fighting domestic violence in her native Botswana and combatting culturally-ingrained victim-blaming by teaching women that it is not their fault when men hurt them. She told NPR: “I tell women to look at the signs while they still have the time. Walk out while they still have the chance. […] I tell women that every time a crime is perpetrated, they should report it. […] Women need education to open them up to the realisation that abuse is prevalent and they need to find ways to overcome it.

Female Role Model 9: Marijana Savic, Serbia

In 2004, Marijana Savic founded Atina as part of the response of “the women’s movement in Serbia to the problem of human trafficking, and non-existence of adequate programmes of long-term support for the victims and help in their social inclusion”. Atina became the first safehouse for victims of trafficking in the country and provides comprehensive support for survivors of violence, exploitation and human trafficking in Serbia. Marijana said: “A person who survived violence needs more than accommodation. […] A right solution for many women is to get support from the community, to understand why the violence is happening, to have full support in safe place, which does not always have to be a safe house.”

Female Role Model 10: Paradise Sourori – Afghanistan

Paradise Sourori is Afghanistan’s first female rapper. Over the last eight years, she has had to flee her country twice, received numerous threats of rape, death, and acid attacks as well as being brutally beaten by 10 men on the street – all because she refuses to stop singing about the gender-based violence and injustices suffered by Afghan women. “[The police] told me I should stop singing,” says Paradise. “That’s when I knew that if I stayed silent, nothing would change.” Today she has resettled in Berlin, Germany and continues to make her music to champion Afghan women.

Female Role Model 11: Ronelle King – Barbados

Ronelle King is a rape and sexual assault survivor who had enough of the nonchalant cultural and social attitude towards violence against women and girls in Barbados. She “had the idea to start a hashtag that would create a forum for Caribbean women to share their daily experiences of sexual harassment and abuse” and so the #LifeInLeggings hashtag and movement was born. The movement has spread rapidly throughout the Caribbean region, The National Women’s Commission of Belize supports the group and UN Women has partnered with them to assist with regional projects.

Female Role Model 12:  Saida Ali – Kenya

Saida Ali was 16 when her older sister fled back to her family home after being assaulted by her husband. Ali helped her sister leave the abusive marriage and that was the start of her lifelong commitment to stopping violence against women. Today, Saida is the executive director of Kenya’s Coalition on Violence Against Women, taking on domestic violence and rape cases across Kenya. Her campaign, Justice for Liz, was waged on behalf of a schoolgirl who was raped and left for dead. The campaign garnered international media attention and the perpetrators were eventually jailed.

Female Role Model 13: Samra Zafar – United Arab Emirates and Canada

Samra Zafar arrived in Canada as a 16-year-old bride in an arranged marriage to an abusive husband who beat, controlled, and raped her. Determined to escape her marriage, she managed to squirrel away a few hundred dollars now and then even though her husband forced her to give up her earnings to him. With her savings and multiple scholarships, she funded her education, earning Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Economics from the University of Toronto with the highest distinctions. Today, Samra is the founder of Brave Beginnings, an organisation dedicated to helping women rebuild their lives after oppression and abuse.

Female Role Model 14: Sharmin Akter – Bangladesh

Sharmin Akter was only 15 years old when her mother attempted to coerce her into marriage to a man decades older than her. However, instead of surrendering to family wishes, she spoke up to protest for her right to an education. In recognition of her courage, she was awarded the 2017 International Women of Courage Award from the US State Department. Sharmin is now studying at Jhalakathi Rajapur Pilot Girls High School to fulfil her goal to become a human rights lawyer fighting against the harmful tradition of forced marriages.

Female Role Model 15: Stephanie Harvey – Canada

Stephanie Harvey is a five-time world champion in competitive Counter-Strike, and longtime female pro-gaming icon. In her 16 years in e-Sports as a player and 7 years as a games developer, she has routinely pushed back and spoken out against toxic misogyny, sexism, and the chronic online harassment of female gamers that is endemic in the gaming world. As part of her activism, she co-founded MissCliks, a gaming community group currently focused on “recognising the under-representation of women as role models in geek and gaming culture, giving support and exposure to those female role models, and helping to create a culture of authenticity, advocacy, unity, and bravery.”

Female Role Model 16: Vera Baird – United Kingdom

Commissioner Dame Vera Baird is an outspoken advocate for stopping violence against women in her capacity as the police and crime commissioner for Northumbria. She has publicly spoken out against a judge who made victim-blaming comments regarding a rape case and was recently negotiating with local government officials in an attempt to stop the withdrawal of funding for women’s refuges in Sunderland. Prior to becoming a police commissioner, she was a lawyer who championed feminist protesters, took on pregnancy discrimination cases, and influenced law in domestic violence cases. Baird was made a Dame in December 2016 in recognition of her life-long fight for gender equality.

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Photo Credits:

  1. Ana Salvá – From “Q&A: Journalist Ana Salvá on the Crimes of Forced Marriage and Forced Pregnancy Under the Khmer Rouge” (VOA Cambodia)
  2. Anuja Gupta – Courtesy of the RAHI Foundation
  3. Carrie Goldberg – From http://www.cagoldberglaw.com/team/carrie-goldberg/
  4. Daisy Coleman – Courtesy of Safebae.org
  5. Hera Hussain – Courtesy of Hera Hussain
  6. Karla Jacinto – From “Human Trafficking Survivor Karla Jacinto Was Raped 43,200 Times as a Teen, Now She’s Telling Her Story to Congress and the Pope” (Seventeen)
  7. Kerstin Weigl – From https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kerstin_Weigl_2015-11-06_001.jpg
  8. Malebogo Malefhe – From “Shot By Her Boyfriend And Now Using A Wheelchair, She Found A ‘New Me’” (Ryan Eskalis/NPR)
  9. Marijana Savic – From “Four women’s rights activists you need to know” (Atina/UNFPA)
  10. Paradise Sorouri – From “Afghanistan’s first female rapper: ‘If I stay silent, nothing will change’” (Eliot Stein/The Guardian)
  11. Ronelle King – From https://www.youtube.com/user/purehazeleyes
  12. Saida Ali – From “The Activist Taking On Patriarchy To End Domestic Violence In Kenya” (The Huffington Post)
  13. Samra Zafar – From “The Good Wife” (Luis Mora/Toronto Life)
  14. Sharmin Akter – From “Fighting Early Marriage: Bangladeshi girl to receive US award” (The Daily Star)
  15. Stephanie Harvey – Courtesy of Stephanie Harvey
  16. Vera Baird – From “Northumbria Police boss Vera Baird made a Dame in New Year’s Honours list” (www.chroniclelive.co.uk)

The Pixel Project Selection 2016: 16 Of The Pixel Project’s Best Interview Articles

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For the past 8 years, The Pixel Project has worked at the intersection of social media, pop culture, the arts, journalism, activism, and new technologies to shine a light on the the many ways violence against women (VAW) affects the lives of women and girls in communities and cultures worldwide.

Blogging is one of the major pillars of our social media-driven awareness-raising and educational work. More than any other social media platforms that we use, blogging empowers us to present in-depth articles, op-eds and interviews that go beyond the soundbites. As we grew as an anti-VAW organisation, we have gradually focused our blogging efforts on interviews to help activists, allies and survivors tell their stories and share their ideas with others first-hand.

In 2016, we marched on with our annual interview-format blogging campaigns:

Together, these interviews form an inspirational tapestry of ideas, stories, and calls-to-action from remarkable individuals, communities and allies that are at the front lines of bringing the change that is so desperately needed to end VAW.

If you have missed any of our blog interview campaigns this year or are new to The Pixel Project’s work, this selection of this year’s 16 best Pixel Project blog interview articles of 2016 will be a great starting point. We hope that the stories we share motivate you to join the effort to end VAW.

It’s time to stop violence against women. Together.

Written and compiled by Regina Yau and Suloshini Jahanath. Introduction by Regina Yau.

All headshots courtesy of the interviewees.
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Pixel Project Blog Interview Selection #1: Survivor Stories Interview – Becky Paroz, Australia

becky-paroz_headshotcWhile Becky had an award-winning career as a project manager in the construction industry, her alter ego Bekstar was the personality that learned to manage the outcomes of growing up in a domestic violence situation and being diagnosed with a crippling disease while still a teenager. Her published writings capture her insights, journey, horror and humour that encapsulates her life, including the solutions she found to live her life to the fullest. Speaking about how she went about rebuilding her life after escaping her situation, she says: My main thought for the aftermath is that while I could not choose what happened to me during [my father’s] controlling years, I could certainly choose my actions beyond that point. Making conscious choices about what I want as a person, instead of what I don’t want as a result of those experiences, is the most clear way I can phrase how I have become the successful person I am today.

Pixel Project Blog Interview Selection #2: 30 For 30 Father’s Day Campaign Interview – Bernardo Rosa Rodriguez, Portugal

Bernardo Rodriguez is a public relations professional in Brussels who has lived in Rome, Jakarta and Washington DC. He has contributed to progressive political groups and campaigns (including women’s human rights causes) for many years. When talking about how dads can help stop VAW, he says: “The first step is to set the example and treat all girls and women respectfully and as equals. […]Young men need to be told that being a man is not about force or domination. It’s about respecting others and not being afraid to stand up and call out abusive language or behaviour, even (especially!) in your own circles. Because it’s time this stops being acceptable.”

Pixel Project Blog Interview Selection #3: Survivor Stories Interview – Elizabeth K. Switaj, USA and Marshall Islands

elizabeth-switaj_croppedElizabeth is a survivor of intimate relationship violence. She currently teaches literature, creative writing and composition at the College of the Marshall Islands on Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands, where she lives with four formerly feral cats, including one with twisted back legs. She is the author of literary guide James Joyce’s Teaching Life and Methods and a collection of poems, Magdalene & the Mermaids. Speaking about ways to end VAW, she says: We need better education about what healthy relationships look like. When I say education, I’m not referring only to formal in-school lessons, but also to media narratives. As an academic, my specialisation is pedagogy in literature. If the experimental texts of High Modernism can teach readers how to understand them, then surely texts can show us how to have relationships without violence and how to recognise and escape toxic situations.

Pixel Project Blog Interview Selection #4: 30 for 30 Father’s Day Campaign Interview – Evanson Njeru, Kenya

evanson-njeru_croppedEvanson Njeru is a community social worker and human rights activist who grew up on the slopes of Mount Kenya. Although he struggled a lot as a village boy who didn’t have many opportunities, he eventually attained a college education. Evanson is now the founder of Compassion CB – an organisation that advocates for the right of women and girls in Kenya through education and sustainable development, as well as anti-female genital mutilation campaigns in villages and schools. When talking about how fathers and how other male role models can help the younger generation step up to prevent VAW, he had this to say: Fathers and other male role models must take up the challenge of being men fighting for the rights of women. Men could help come up with policies that promote rights for women and girls. Young men and boys should be educated and made to understand that violence against women is a violation of human rights. They should also be made to understand some cultural beliefs undermine women and violate their rights.

Pixel Project Blog Interview Selection #5: Inspirational Interview – Fraidy Reiss, United States of America

headshot Fraidy Reiss_croppedFraidy Reiss is a forced marriage survivor and the founder of Unchained At Last, a nonprofit organisation in the U.S. dedicated to helping women and girls leave or avoid arranged/forced marriages and rebuild their lives. Unchained provides free legal and social services and emotional support, while also raising awareness and pushing for relevant legislation. Fraidy says: “I wish I knew exactly how to end violence against women forever. I don’t, but I know that we move closer to that goal when we, women and men, are vigilant and outspoken – that is, when we identify and call attention to instances of institutionalised patriarchy and sexism. We must not overlook or accept; we must not become complacent.”

Pixel Project Blog Interview Selection #6: 30 For 30 Father’s Day Campaign Interview – John Nolan, Australia.

john-nolan_croppedJohn Nolan is the Founder and Director of DadsUNI, a Christian ministry assisting in the development of strong families in modern society with a focus on the role of young fathers. DadsUNI teaches the elements of Understanding, Nurturing and Imparting to assist young dads in this all-important role. ’52 Tips For Fathers’ is their most popular course and available for free on their website. When talking about ways to prevent VAW, he says: I personally believe that the change required in our society to stop violence against women must be addressed by using many different approaches, and without doubt positive male role models do play an important part. Learned behaviours are passed down from generation to generation – violent fathers create violent sons. It is a behavioural cycle of abuse and/or violence, and it is our job to look for ways to break that cycle.

Pixel Project Blog Interview Selection #7: Survivor Stories Interview – Leslie Ann Epperson, United States of America

leslie-epperson_croppedLeslie Ann Epperson is an Emmy Award winning cultural and natural history documentary filmmaker for PBS affiliates who endured sexism and misogyny in television and was in an abusive marriage for many years. Leslie is now dedicated to following her own path, and takes great joy in mentoring younger women artists and filmmakers. When talking about stopping VAW, she says: “Education is key. We must teach our children to respect all of life, human and otherwise, and learn to care for ourselves, each other, and our world in equal measure. It is a spiritual journey, and I think humanity is on the right path, even though it often seems too slow. Much has changed in my lifetime—and much remains to be transformed. We must teach children that love really is the answer, and that violence never works. Violence only begets more of the same.”

Pixel Project Blog Interview Selection #8: 30 For 30 Father’s Day Campaign Interview – Michael Cheang, Malaysia.

michael-cheang_croppedMichael is a journalist with a daily newspaper in Malaysia, specialising in entertainment and beverage news. He has a strong interest in all things pop culture, like Star Wars, Transformers, and he is trying to share these interests with his 2-year-old daughter. When speaking about ways to educate the younger generation to step up and prevent VAW, he says: A father has to take a stand against this sort of thing and be more proactive in educating his kids about violence against women, and that it is NOT okay to hit women (or even other men, for that matter). If the son should come across incidents like that and tell the father, the father should not brush it off as someone else’s problem, and should instead educate the son properly on why it is wrong.

Pixel Project Blog Interview Selection #9: 30 for 30 Father’s Day Campaign Interview – Mike Toma, Iraq

mike-toma_croppedMike is from Iraq and is a progressive, freethinking individual with open ideologies on political and governmental reforms. He has a BA in Business Administration and currently working towards a master’s in project management. He is also a science and astronomy enthusiast with an interest in the betterment of education, an advocate for free college education, social democratic reforms and science literacy among common people. When talking about how fathers and how other male role models can help the younger generation step up to prevent VAW, he says: If my child views me as someone who values her/his mother, they will understand that this is the way to treat others. If my son sees me respecting his mother, he will have that attitude towards other women. If my daughter sees how I treat her mother with care and respect, she will understand that she has the right to defend herself and not take any kind of verbal and/or physical abuse and not allow others to take advantage of her.

Pixel Project Blog Interview Selection #10: Survivor Stories Interview – Palesa Mompe, South Africa

palesa-mompei_croppedPalesa Mompe is a survivor of child rape and sexual abuse. Now an active member of CLIMB Against Sexual Abuse, she has retired from the corporate world and is actively involved in transforming young people to new thinking where they can explore a different view of themselves and their realities. She spends her time working as a facilitator and coach with NGOs that aim to promote health on a social and economic level. In her interview with The Pixel Project, she says: “I would like women to remember that no matter the circumstances of the abuse, we never ask nor do we deserve the violation and humiliation that comes with abuse. It is critical to find our voice because silence is a way of allowing the perpetrator to silence us. We give power to them and increase myths such as victim-blaming.”

Pixel Project Blog Interview Selection #11: Inspirational Interview – Rujuta Teredesai, India

rujuta-teredesai_croppedRujuta Teredesai Heron, co-founder of Equal Community Foundation, has been working in the development sector for around 10 years. She specialises in programme management, fundraising, and communications. Having studied English Literature and Print Journalism, she is a trained journalist. She joined the Equal Community Foundation because she has tremendous faith in the concept of engaging boys and men as a part of the solution. Rujuta says: “Men’s attitudes and behaviours towards women are the root cause of the problem of violence and discrimination against women and girls. If we are to solve this problem, then we must engage boys and men in the solution. Unfortunately, a majority of men do not have the opportunity to learn about equality and the role they play in it. We recognise that we need to provide boys and men with knowledge, skills, peer support and leadership/role models to prevent violence and discrimination against women.”

Pixel Project Blog Interview Selection #12: Inspirational Interview – Sahar Khan, India

sahar-khan_croppedSahar Khan is founder of the Stanford and Hyderabad-based tech platform Zariya that connects women who face VAW with help in a swift and safe manner. When talking to The Pixel Project about Zariya’s work at the intersection of anti-VAW activism and new technologies, she says: “Survivors do not have singular needs but a multitude of needs (legal, economic, medical etc.); hence there is a obligation for a coordination mechanism among providers on the ground. We aim to build the strong coordination mechanisms between the variety of services and expedite necessary knowledge and action between them to deliver the best outcome for survivors.”

Pixel Project Blog Interview Selection #13: Inspirational Interview – Sayydah Garrett, Canada and Kenya

sayydah-garrett_croppedBorn in Montreal, Canada, Sayydah Garrett is the Co-Founder & President of Pastoralist Child Foundation (PCF) which aims to end female genital mutilation (FGM) in Samburu County, Kenya. Together with PCF’s Co-Founder, Samuel Leadismo, Sayydah runs PCF’s anti-FGM programmes which is built on helping Samburu’s families and communities have a stake in ending FGM while helping girls get an education for a brighter future. Sayydah says: “The Samburu community now prefers education as the Alternative Rite of Passage to replace FGM. By educating both girls and boys there is a greater chance that we will succeed in eradicating FGM and child marriage. Workshop attendees learn the great benefits of not mutilating girls. Our workshops are wildly popular! The youth understand that when girls are healthy, educated, happy and enjoying life, things are better for everyone.”

Pixel Project Blog Interview Selection #14: Inspirational Interview – Tania Rashid, Bangladesh

Tania Rashid_croppedTania Rashid, a freelance correspondent, multimedia journalist working in print and photography, and the producer of the short documentary, “A Crime Unpunished: Bangladeshi Gang Rape”.  She has covered human interest stories for Vice News in Bangladesh on gang rape and the lives of sex workers. Most recently Rashid hosted a piece for Al Jazeera’s 101 East on child marriage. When talking to The Pixel Project about how the mainstream media can do better with reporting on VAW, Tania recommended the following: “The media needs to give voices to journalists of colour – female journalists of colour, because we have access to worlds and terrains that a parachute reporter probably would never get. The first step is for the media to recognise and give a chance to reporters who can bring these very deep stories to light in a respectful way, and with understanding of a particular culture, where it is not just anthropological or half-assed. That is what I do, and I think more women should have that opportunity.”

Pixel Project Blog Interview Selection #15: 30 For 30 Father’s Day Campaign Interview – Travis Greenley, Canada

travis-greenley_croppedA proud father to an 11 year old daughter, Travis joined Family Transition Place (FTP), which is the organisation in his community trying to promote gender equality and stop violence against women and girls. He helped start and volunteers for a men’s engagement committee (MENtors) and is also a Youth Educator with FTP. He travels to schools to promote, role model for and teach youth about healthy and unhealthy relationships and all its related topics (stereotypes, empathy, discrimination, self-esteem). Speaking about to educating the younger generation on ways to prevent VAW, he says: I believe that as a society we need to spend less time telling men and boys what not to do. Instead, we need to empower boys and men with what they can do to make a positive difference in our culture. We should encourage them to become educated on the issue of violence against women and gender inequality.

Pixel Project Blog Interview Selection #16: Inspirational Interview – Yasi Safinya-Davies, United States of America

dr-yasi-safinya-davies_croppedDr. Yasi Safinya-Davies has been serving survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault since 2009. She completed her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from Alliant International University, California School of Professional Psychology. Her professional focus is specific to issues concerning women, the impacts of trauma, and severe/chronic psychological conditions. In October 2015, she became the executive director of SAVE, a domestic violence nonprofit in Californa. When talking about how communities can mitigate the risks of VAW, she says: “As a community, we can mitigate these challenges by providing girls equal opportunities to education, by examining our permission of male dominance and aggression, by eliminating the purchasing of girls and women as commodities. We can keep score and publicise the equitable or inequitable practices toward women of corporations, education systems, politicians, and advertising agencies. We can make it safe to say, “I am a survivor.”  We can acknowledge that domestic violence affects all of us.”

The Pixel Project Selection 2016: 16 Books About Violence Against Women

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Stories have the power to fire the imagination and provoke new thoughts and ideas. For this purpose, The Pixel Project has put together a list of 16 books that depict violence against women and girls. Some of these stories are fictional and some are not, but all of them will educate the reader in some way about violence, rape culture, cultural mores and misogyny.

The stories on this list have been taken from various genres, from thrillers and dramas to science fiction and autobiographies but they all show a common trend of entrenched and pervasive violence against women in the diverse societies they portray. They do, however, offer threads of hope, with people and characters pushing back against the tide and fighting for a world where women and girls are free from violence.

This list is not exhaustive; there are hundreds of stories out there that deal with violence against women in its various forms. But we hope that these 16 stories will education and inspire you as they have galvanised others over the years to push for change in your community.

Written and compiled by Anushia Kandasivam


Selection number 1: Speak (1999) by Laurie Halse Anderson

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This young adult novel tells the story of a teenager Melinda Sordino who starts the new school year as a selective mute. She is ostracised by her peers because she had called the police to a house party but the truth about why she did this is not revealed until much later. Melinda finds a way to express herself through art with the help of a supportive teacher, which helps her come to terms with her trauma and finally give voice to it. Speak is written in a diary format, so the plot is non-linear and jumpy, mimicking Melinda’s feelings and her journey. It is interesting to note that this book has faced censorship because of its mature content. It was made into a film in 2004 starring Kristen Stewart.

Selection number 2: The Colour Purple (1982) by Alice Walker

colorpurpleA Pulitzer Prize winning novel set in rural Georgia, USA in the 1930s, The Colour Purple focuses on the lives of African American women, including their low social status, struggles through poverty and the sexism and sexual violence they have to live through. The story follows Celie, a poor and uneducated teenage girl who experiences sexual violence from a young age and who is forced to marry an older man. The novel not only explores the themes of violence, sexism and racism, it also touches on gender roles, with several characters blurring the boundaries of gender expectations. There is also a strong underlying theme of sisterhood – women supporting each other through the trials and tribulations of life. In fact, it is this strong bond between the main women characters in the novel that enables their self-realisation and growth. Despite its popularity and awards, The Colour Purple continues to be challenged by censors for its depictions of violence and homosexuality, among other things. It has been adapted into a film and a musical.

Selection number 3: La Dangereuse (2016) by Loubna Abidar and Marion Van Renterghem

la-dangereuseLa Dangereuse (The Dangerous Woman) is the French-language autobiography of Moroccan actress Loubna Abidar, based on interviews with Le Monde journalist Marion Van Renterghem, tells the story of how Abidar overcame poverty and physical and sexual abuse by her father to become one of Morocco’s most acclaimed young actresses. Last year, Abidar was vilified for playing the role of a prostitute in award-winning local film Much Loved and was later beaten on the streets of Casablanca. A refugee ever since, the 31-year-old speaks frankly in her book about the hypocrisy of men, the weight of tradition and taboos and the profound misogyny in her society and culture, but also declares that she refuses to live in fear.

Selection number 4: The Shining Girls (2013) by Lauren Beukes

laurenbeukes_shininggirls_1st_edThis science fiction thriller by South African author Beukes steps back and forth through time following a serial killer who is compelled to stalk and murder ‘shining girls’, young women with great potential whom he sees as literally shining. One of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, who was attacked in 1989, survives and turns the tables, hunting him back. Besides the mystery and thriller elements, the novel also depicts a survivor’s story through Kirby and how she deals with the aftermath of her attack, and offers readers strong and powerful female characters who overcome their fears to fight back.

Selection number 5: Trafficked: My Story of Surviving, Escaping and Transcending Abduction into Prostitution (2013) by Sophie Hayes

traffickedThis first-hand account of a human trafficking survivor took the author’s home country by storm when it first came out because of one surprising detail – the author and survivor Sophie Hayes is from the UK, a country not known for human trafficking and where people are not as aware of sex trafficking as they should be. Hayes, a young, educated English woman, was tricked and abducted by a man she thought of as her boyfriend and forced to work as a prostitute in a strange country. Beaten and otherwise abused, Hayes took advantage of a chance opportunity to escape. This memoir has generated much discussion in the UK and other first-world countries about the unseen world of human trafficking as well as calls for more awareness and better law and policy. Hayes along with a small team also set up The Sophie Hayes Foundation, which conducts research on human trafficking, creates awareness and offers support to survivors.

Selection number 6: The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (1997) by Iris Chang

therapeofnanking_1edcoverThis bestselling non-fiction book is about the Nanking Massacre, the 1937-1938 campaign of mass murder and rape by the Imperial Japanese Army after its capture of the city of Nanjing, then the capital of China. In the book, Chang details the atrocities committed by the Japanese Army, including killing, torture and rape; women and girls from all classes and of all ages were raped. The book has received as much criticism as it has acclaim but either way it did much to bring light to a much-ignored yet significant part of World War II, war crimes in general and war crimes perpetrated against women specifically.

Selection number 7: If I Were a Boy (1936) by Haki Stёrmilli

sikur_tisha_djale-if-i-were-a-boyThis Albanian-language epistolary novel (Sikur t’isha djalё) tells the story of a young girl named Dija as she goes through life in the strictly patriarchal Albanian society. Told through a series of diary entries read by Dija’s male cousin, it describes in first person the hardships, struggles and horrors she experiences throughout her life because of her having virtually no say in anything that happens to her. She is forced into marriage to a much older man, suffers abuse, and battles depression and suicidal thoughts.

Selection number 8: Indigo Blue (2005) by Cathy Cassidy

indigo-blueA children’s book, Indigo Blue is about young Indigo whose mother suddenly decides to move her and her baby sister out of their cozy house to a ‘flat from hell’. While at first she does not understand why they have to leave their old life and her mother’s boyfriend behind and suffer poor living conditions and not enough food, Indigo eventually learns to take charge and make the most of her situation. The novel depicts domestic violence, love and depression in various forms, giving young readers some understanding and insight into a family situation that has become prevalent in all societies.

Selection number 9: A Handmaid’s Tale (1985) by Margaret Atwood

thehandmaidstale1stedA dystopian speculative fiction novel set in the near future, A Handmaid’s Tale has won and been nominated for several awards and been adapted for film, radio, opera and stage. Exploring the themes of the subjugation of women, it tells the story of a particular young woman call Offred who is a handmaid, part of the class of women whose sole purpose is reproduction in a society where people are divided and distinguished by sex, occupation and caste. Clothing is colour-coded to reflect this division and it is strongly implied that while some men clothes, such as military uniforms, empower men, women have little to no power in society. The novel engenders discussion about control over people – Offred struggles for agency throughout the story – consent in relationships and the need for women to support each other.

Selection number 10: My Story (2014) by Elizabeth Smart with Chris Stewart

my-storyNow a child safety activist, Elizabeth Smart was 14 when she was abducted from her home in Salt Lake City and rescued nine months later. In this memoir, Smart tells of her ordeal, her determined hold on hope and how she devised a plan to increase her chances of escape or rescue. She also details how she coped after the fact, seeing justice served and her journey of healing and becoming an advocate. The novel emphasises the importance of individual self worth in survivors. Smart founded the Elizabeth Smart Foundation to prevent and put a stop to predatory crimes.

Selection number 11: Echo Burning (2001) by Lee Child

echo-burningThe fifth book in the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child and a thriller at its core, Echo Burning also explores domestic abuse. In the story, Reacher is approached by a woman, Carmen, who wants her husband killed because he is about to be released from prison and return home, whereupon he will inevitably start beating her again. Child has said that, inspired by an American Old West gunfighter who ‘never killed a man that did not need killing’, he wanted to explore the idea of man who Reacher is told needed killing. The story also explores the ambiguity of character – there is always a question whether Carmen can be trusted – as well as the diversity of American society as reflected in the character of a powerful female lawyer.

Selection number 12: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2005) by Stieg Larsson

thegirlwiththedragontattooThis internationally bestselling psychological thriller, titled Mӓn som hatar kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women) in its original Swedish, was translated and published in English in 2008. The eponymous girl is brilliant but troubled researcher and hacker Lisbeth Salander, who assists protagonist Mikael Blomkvist as he has been hired to solve the disappearance and possible murder of a girl. There is a strong theme of violence against women in various forms, including sexual predation and murder, and the story shows how violence can happen to and be perpetrated by anyone from any social class.

Selection number 13: Rose Madder (1995) by Stephen King

rosemadderThough Stephen King has explored the theme of domestic violence in several novels, in Rose Madder it plays an integral part of the plot. The protagonist is Rose Daniels, who lives with an abusive husband for 14 years before finally deciding that she has to leave him. The story shows this turning point and her subsequent journey to self-realisation while dealing with the constant fear that her husband, a policeman who is good at finding people, will track her down.

 

Selection number 14: Something Is Wrong at My House: A Book About Parents’ Fighting (2010) by Diane Davis

something-is-wrong-at-my-houseBased on a true story, this book was created for children who are seeking help for and understanding of domestic violence. It is written so that it can be used by both very young and school-age children, with simple but clear text and illustrations to help children make sense of a frightening situation and encourage them to talk about it with trusted adults. It is also designed so that it can be used by teachers, school counsellors and nurses, and therapists.

 

Selection number 15: Woman at Point Zero (1973) by Nawal El Saadawi

woman_at_point_zero_1st_eng_edBased on the author’s encounter with a female prisoner in Qanatir Prison in Egypt during her research into female neurosis, the premise of this story is a psychiatrist visiting a prison in which she meets and speaks with an unusual female prisoner, Firdaus, who has been accused of murder and is scheduled for execution. The story is that of the Firdaus’ life from her poor childhood when she witnessed domestic violence, survives genital mutilation and sexual abuse, to being forced into marriage with an older man and living through a violent marriage. Firdaus tells of how she gained agency, power and reached self-realisation before everything came crashing down.

Selection number 16: Alias (2001 – 2004) created by Brian Michael Bendis and Micahael Gaydos

aliasomnibusPublished by Marvel Comics under it MAX imprint, the Alias comic book series follows protagonist Jessica Jones after she leaves behind her life as a costumed hero and becomes a private investigator. The overarching story arc across the 28 issues is Jones’ character development as she comes to terms with a traumatic past where she was manipulated and abused, and as she struggles to deal with the present-day physical, emotional and mental consequences. Adapted into an on-going television series called Jessica Jones in 2015, this series has won two awards and been nominated for others.


Photo credits:

  1. Speak – From www.nobelwomensinitiative.org
  2. The Colour Purple – https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19909555
  3. La Dangereuse – From Amazon.fr 
  4. The Shining Girls – from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39574596 (Book Cover design by Joey Hi-Fi)
  5. Trafficked: My Story of Surviving, Escaping and Transcending Abduction into Prostitution – From Amazon.com
  6. The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II  – From https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12768170
  7. If I Were a Boy – From https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36126680
  8. Indigo Blue – From Amazon.com
  9. A Handmaid’s Tale – From https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20132070
  10. My Story – From Amazon.com
  11. Echo Burning – From World of Books.
  12. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – From https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17084782
  13. Rose Madder – From https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15658136
  14. Something Is Wrong at My House: A Book About Parents’ Fighting – From Amazon.com
  15. Woman at Point Zero – From https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32458784
  16. Alias – From https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5599614

How To Disrupt 16 Practices of Gender-based Violence In College Life

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Every year, we are pleased to welcome a guest “16 For 16” article from our partner, Breakthrough – a global human rights organisation working to make violence and discrimination against women and girls unacceptable. Their cutting-edge multimedia campaigns, community mobilisation, agenda setting, and leadership training equip men and women worldwide to challenge the status quo and take bold action for the dignity, equality, and justice of all.

This year, Breakthrough shares a list of 16 actions that college students can take to disrupt violence against women in college life.

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Many rigid gender norms–cultural rules about how people should behave because of their perceived gender–can cause harm because they perpetuate a culture where gender-based violence is seen as a normal or even inevitable part of the college experience. Some of these practices have become so normalized in college and university life that they can seem impossible to change. But YOU can become an agent of change by unpacking the norms that drive these practices, and thinking outside the box to disrupt and challenge the ways these cultural norms cause harm to students in your community.

Here are 16 examples of gender norms in practice that we’ll bet you’ve come across before. Are some of these prevalent at your university? If you’re interested in disrupting and transforming any of these practices on your campus, Breakthrough’s Action Hotline is a great resource to get you started! We offer free mentorship for students looking to change culture on campuses across the U.S., and help you brainstorm, plan, and implement your idea for action.

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Practice #1 – “Ladies Night!”

You’ve probably seen this in the form of “women drink for free” or “$2 cover for ladies.” – the promise of drunk women in a way that promotes rape culture. Possible disruptive actions? Satirise the ways in which drunk women are used as objects in advertising to call this practice out for what it is. Create media campaigns that show how pervasive–and harmful–this practice is, and model new ways of getting customers and making money that don’t involve rape culture.

Practice #2 – Victim blaming (Among Peers)

Bullying or shaming survivors of violence, often by suggesting that they were responsible for their own victimisation as opposed to placing blame on the person who chose to commit an act of violence. This can increase the incidence and harmful effect of violence. Potential disruptive actions? A “No Blame” campaign – Collect and share examples of victim blaming on campus and offer solutions and healthier frameworks. Respond to victim blaming by flooding social media or apps like YikYak with positive messages calling out this practice. You and your friends dress up as referees – striped shirts and whistles – and throw a flag when you hear or see victim blaming behavior.

Practice #3 – Victim blaming (Institutional/Systemic)

Rules and policies enforced (or not enforced) by administrators and staff place blame on the actions of the victims, and not on the person that chose to commit violence against them. It is asking survivors what they were wearing, how much they drank, or what they could have done differently to avoid violence. Potential disruptive actions? Run a spotlight campaign focused on highlighting what should be included in school policy, and explaining the harms caused by institutional victim blaming. Speak out to local and national media when cases of institutional victim-blaming occur to bring external pressure to bear on the situation.

Practice #4 – “Rating” Women Based on Their Looks and Sexual Availability to Men

This practice can be a formal system among a specific group on campus, or an informal “in-joke” most often amongst men. It sounds like “she’s a ten” or language like “grenade” used to refer to women. Whatever the language, this practice says that a woman’s value is based on her looks and sexuality, creating a culture where men are pressured to have sex with certain women, and women are expected and pressured into sex or are assaulted and raped. Potential disruptive actions? Whistleblowing – reveal the depths of this practice if it has become a tradition. Make it clear that it happens on your campus and will not happen anymore – take inspiration from the Harvard Women’s Soccer team.

Practice #5 – Sexual Scoring

Like so many harmful norms, this one has a long history in language like “notches on your belt or bedpost”. This practice arises out of the idea that masculinity = having lots of heterosexual sex, and coercive and non-consensual behavior often become accepted parts of the game. Potential disruptive actions? Get competitive instead about calling out actions that pressure people to have sex. Keep score on that and share strategies and tips to step up your game.

Practice #6 – Taking/recording Photos/Video Without Consent

Whether through hacking, hidden cameras, or in other ways, taking intimate or degrading photos, videos, Snapchats and more without the person’s knowledge, permission, or consent causes harm whether it is shared or not. Potential disruptive actions? Use stories of people affected by this practice to create understanding of the harms and impacts it causes. Transform conversations around sexual consent to include discussions of intimate photos and videos.

Practice #7 – Non-Consensual Photo/Video Sharing

Often existing alongside the previous practice, the act of sharing or threatening to share intimate photos and videos without their consent (even if they were taken with consent!) as an unacceptable violation that often causes harm, shame, and stigma. Potential disruptive actions? Use storytelling to encourage a sex-positive, non-shaming approach to conversations around intimate photos. Run reactive campaigns when incidents occur that show solidarity with victims.

Practice #8 – “Rush boobs” (And Other Trophies)

An often formalised component of sexual scoring is the collection of “trophies”, sexually objectifying women and creating a culture that pressures men to “get” sex however they can. Trophies and a high score are prioritised over consent and respect. According to Total Frat Move: “Since the dawn of the internet, fraternity members have been convincing girls to write “Rush (Insert Fraternity Here)” across their chests for promotional purposes.” Potential Disruptive actions? Call out and replace this practice by writing “RUSH __” on random objects to showcase the absurdity of the tradition. Flood social media with this on the relevant hashtags.

Practice #9 – The “Friendzone”

Ah – the “friendzone”. The idea that “nice guys” are entitled to the romantic or sexual interest of a woman, and that men are “victims” of women only wanting to be friends with them (the horror!). This is one of the more insidious and seemingly benign components of rape culture and really needs to go. Potential disruptive actions? Create a multimedia campaign using examples of the “friendzone” from pop culture– TV shows, lyrics, films, or blogs. Talk about the inherent sexism and use this idea to elevate discussions around consent and autonomy. Designate a space on campus to be an actual “friend zone” – where people of all genders can just be friends without the pressure of sex, or a space where friends can be honest with each other about their expectations of their relationship. Or maybe a space to keep anyone who complains about being in…….the friendzone.

Practice #10 – Shaming Women’s Sexuality (“Slut-shaming”)

This age-old practice of using loaded language to shame women for their sexuality or their appearance is a prime example of the double-standard for women when it comes to sex (see “sexual scoring” above). Potential disruptive actions? Take the shame out of sexuality through sex-positive storytelling. Offer new ways to talk about the moments that are often linked to slut-shaming (AKA “the walk of shame” becomes the “stride of pride”).

Practice #11 – Rape Culture Banners (“Drop Your Daughters Off Here, Dads”)

Every fall, massive banners displayed across Fraternity houses meant to intimidate new students – particularly first year women – are unfurled (trust us, you can google it). These banners often contain threatening and offensive messages that trivialize sexual assault. Potential disruptive actions? Take inspiration from Will & Bill who started Banner Up! At Indiana University in response to rape culture banners at their school. Get dads involved since these banners often implicate them as well.

Practice #12 – Control of Access to Alcohol

On many campuses, men (and most often, fraternities) have control over other students’ access to alcohol. Students, and especially underage students, have limited access to alcohol, which creates greater opportunity to isolate, coerce, force alcohol on, and sexually assault others. Potential disruptive actions? Flip the script – put women or other groups in charge of access to alcohol for a change. Work with chapters at other schools to challenge problematic policies and rules at a national level.

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Practice #13 – Homophobia and Transphobia

Dehumanising LGBT folk through discrimination, violence, and the use of homophobic and transphobic language is a problem in and of itself. It also is used to regulate and police other people’s behaviors and reinforces inequity and violence. Potential disruptive actions? Build empathy culture: create systems of peer accountability for homophobic and transphobic behavior. If you are not LGBT yourself, center the experiences of LGBT students in your work on your own campus and build strong alliances.

Practice #14 – “The Perfect Victim

The practice of discrediting victims based on their sexual history, appearance, gender, race, or any other facet of their identity is common and is a part of victim blaming. Promoting the idea of a “perfect victim” makes it easier to disbelieve, blame, and silence all survivors of sexual violence and/or relationship abuse. Potential disruptive actions? Offer new, real narratives from survivors in your own community. Run campaigns that seek to broaden campus-wide understanding of who can be a victim.

Practice #15 – Colluding with Those Who Commit Violence

Protecting students and others who perpetrate violence because of their perceived value to the school is all too common on campus and in communities everywhere, and it normalises and increases the amount of violence committed. Potential disruptive actions? Create accountability culture: work with students to understand that it is not in the best interest of the community to protect those who commit violence, use student and local media to draw attention to cover ups, work with alumni, parents, and others to hold the administration accountable for transparency.

Practice #16 – “Standards”

Peer-led committees or boards enforce a code of conduct within student organisations, in a system that is meant to protect the reputation of an organisation. Potential disruptive actions? Change your standards: it’s a peer enforced system. Challenge shaming within your community. Check yourselves.

If you’re inspired to take action to disrupt any of these practices–or want to take a closer look at the norms that drive a culture of gender-based violence in your community–take advantage of Breakthrough’s Action Hotline today!

16 Ideas and Actions To Avoid and Stop Victim Blaming

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One of the major factors that impede the eradication of violence against women (VAW) in communities and cultures worldwide is victim blaming. Victim-blaming norms place the blame for domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault squarely on the victim while absolving the perpetrator from guilt or fault. This toxic and insidious attitude is rooted in the patriarchy and is set in place long before any attack is carried out. For example: adults admonishing girls and young women not to drink when they go out, school policies that police what girls wear so that they do not distract boys at school, the slut shaming of women who have premarital sex in conservative cultures, and girls being taught to avoid public spaces after dark.

This culture of saddling women and girls with the sole responsibility for their own safety not only restricts and hinders their daily lives, but also has devastating consequences for victims in cases of rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence. Judges in rape trials across the world have asked victims why they couldn’t “keep their knees together” or if they had tried “closing [their] legs”. In domestic violence cases, judges and lawyers use victim-blaming terms such as “volatile relationship” and “jealous anger” to minimise the accountability of men who abuse their wives and partners. And in high-profile cases like Amber Heard’s divorce from Johnny Depp for his abusive behaviour and in the Chris Brown-Rihanna domestic violence case, many fans (including female fans) rush to defend their male idols while shaming the victims despite indisputable evidence of abuse. As Rihanna noted in an interview: “The victim gets punished over and over.”

The challenge with dismantling victim-blaming attitudes lies in the fact that it is so pervasive that most people do it automatically. From refusing to believe a domestic violence victim by saying ‘I wasn’t there so I don’t know’ to teaching girls to avoid alcohol when they socialise, putting the onus on women to avoid abuse is a knee-jerk reaction for many people.

In this 16 For 16 article, we present 16 actionable ideas as a starting point to inspire you to to stop victim blaming, whether it’s adjusting your own behaviour, holding a perpetrator responsible for his behaviour, changing your community’s attitude towards victim blaming, or helping a victim or survivor.

It’s time to stop violence against women. Together.

Written, researched, and compiled by Regina Yau.

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Suggestion for Smashing Victim Blaming #1: Begin by Believing 

Silence surrounds domestic and sexual violence in society because victim blaming and shaming makes it a taboo topic for discussion. When victims try to speak out, they encounter disbelief and dismissal from family and friends. So when a friend or family member tells you that she is being abused by her husband or partner or that she has been raped, believe her. Even if the perpetrator is your friend or another family member, believe her. And let her know that you believe her.

Suggestion for Smashing Victim Blaming #2: Repeat After Me: “It Is Not Your Fault.”

Assure the victim that it is not her fault and reinforce this by listening to what she says about her experience. When telling their story, it is normal for some victims to sometimes attribute part of the blame to themselves because they too have internalised victim-blaming norms. If this is the case, continue listening but also consistently reassure her that it is not her fault. If other people blame the victim, speak up to remind them and emphasise that it is not her fault.

Suggestion for Smashing Victim Blaming #3: Hold The Perpetrator Accountable

People who are abusive or violent towards others often try to explain away or rationalise their actions by blaming their victim. If you hear a perpetrator saying this, do not believe him. If you are in a position to push back, do so by verbally repeating his actions to him and reminding him that he alone decided to abuse, assault, or rape his victim when there were other choices of action available. Do not let him make excuses like blaming the victim, alcohol, circumstances or drugs for his behaviour. If you can, get help from a rape crisis centre, domestic violence charity or women’s rights organisation in your area to build a case for filing a report with the relevant authorities while providing support and care for the victim.

Suggestion for Smashing Victim Blaming #4: Challenge The Enablers

Thanks to the pervasiveness of victim-blaming, there will be other people who will believe the perpetrator, especially friends and family members who either cannot reconcile the individual they know with the violent criminal action he took against another person. Oftentimes, they will defend him by lashing out at the victim. When you encounter this, check that the victim is all right (if she is present) and then remind the victim-blamers that it was the perpetrator who made the choice to abuse or rape and counter every victim blaming excuse they make for him.

Suggestion for Smashing Victim Blaming #5: Mind Your Language

One of the ways in which we perpetuate victim blaming is the way we talk about it. Typically, language surrounding domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault focuses our attention on the victim instead of the perpetrator. For example: it is common for many people to talk about the case as “Mary was raped” or “Mary is a rape victim”. This subtly cuts out the perpetrator from the discussion while putting the victim in the spotlight. So be mindful of the way you talk about VAW cases. Try using an active sentence such as “James raped Mary” to make sure the blame stays where it should stay – with the perpetrator.

Suggestion for Smashing Victim Blaming #6: Ask The Right Questions

When there is news about domestic violence, rape, or sexual assault, the first question many people often ask is: “What was she wearing?”, “Was she drinking too much?” or “What did she do to provoke him?”. These questions generally go unchallenged because of victim-blaming culture and the belief that women are responsible for their own safety. Instead of going with the flow, ask the hard questions that get to the heart of the crime and puts the spotlight back on the perpetrator such as “Why did he rape her?” and “What is law enforcement/the judiciary doing to hold the perpetrator accountable?”.

Suggestion for Smashing Victim Blaming #7: Turn It Into A Teachable Moment

There are a number of typical questions and assumptions that are expressed by people when they hear about a VAW case. These range from “Why was she out so late at night anyway?” to “She must have provoked him into being abusive. They both need to change”. Use these attempts to displace accountability onto the victim as an opportunity to school the people who say them about VAW and the importance of holding the perpetrator accountable for his actions. Not sure where to begin? Here’s a great starter resource which helps answer many typical accountability-interrupting questions.

Suggestion for Smashing Victim Blaming #8: Hold The Media Accountable

The way the media reports about VAW is a major factor in upholding and perpetuating victim-blaming culture. A 2015 study into the international reporting of violence against women has found that media often sensationalises domestic violence against women and shifts the focus away from the perpetrator. If you see your local or national newspaper or news channel reporting on VAW cases in this way, call them out on it and challenge them to do better. Some of the ways you can do that include writing a public letter to the editor or starting an online petition asking them to rethink their approach.

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Suggestion for Smashing Victim Blaming #9: Hold The Judiciary Accountable

One of the most damaging influences of victim blaming is the judges presiding over VAW cases who hold victim-blaming attitudes themselves. Such attitudes frequently result in abusers and rapists walking free or being handed extremely lightweight sentences. Such verdicts re-traumatise victims and legitimise victim blaming. Take action against this in various ways by protesting unfair verdicts and victim-blaming behaviour by judges through petitions and open letters, and taking action to get the judge to be recalled or disciplined as the residents of Palo Alto and Stanford University students did in the Brock Turner case.

Suggestion for Smashing Victim Blaming #10: Call Out Rape Jokes

One of the ways in which victim-blaming attitudes are normalised is through rape jokes. By making light of rape and sexual assault, these jokes trivialise the trauma that survivors face by making rape and rape survivors a laughing stock for public amusement. The most basic way you can challenge rape jokes is by calling it out immediately – state that it makes you uncomfortable, state why it makes you uncomfortable, and ask the person making the joke to consider the negative effects of the joke. For example: “I know a few rape survivors. This joke isn’t funny. How would you feel if you were raped and someone made fun of your trauma?”.

Suggestion for Smashing Victim Blaming #11: Vote With Your Wallet

Pop culture reflects the beliefs, moods, and norms of wider society. So it is no surprise that VAW appears in books, comics, music, movies, comedy, TV series, fashion, social media and even advertisements. Rape in particular is often treated as a convenient plot device, even going as far as to portray the rapist in a sympathetic light. In a number of very popular movies and TV series, rape and sexual assault are normalised and even used for comedic effect. And a number of advertising agencies still produce ads that use images and footage of VAW for their clients. The best way to push back? Vote with your wallet – simply refuse to by the products sold by companies, artists, designers, and creators who contribute to the narrative of rape culture and victim blaming or get advertisers to pull their ad spend or sponsorship of the product. And get your friends to join you in this boycott.

Suggestion for Smashing Victim Blaming #12: Get Educated About Violence Against Women (VAW)

Many people fall back on victim blaming because they buy into the myths surrounding VAW. These include false assumptions such as “If she doesn’t fight back, then it isn’t rape” or “If he was violent, why doesn’t she have bruises?”. This leads to the victim being treated with suspicion or not being taken seriously if she isn’t the “perfect victim” who fought back against her rapist or who is visibly abused by her partner. Begin proactively addressing any victim-blaming tendencies you may have by learning about VAW, how to recognise signs of abuse, and why rapists rape. Check out the websites of anti-VAW organisations like The Pixel Project to get information and resources to start you off.

Suggestion for Smashing Victim Blaming #13: Get Educated About Consent

Recognising the importance of sexual consent in relationships and learning how to check for consent before sex is a crucial part of preventing rape and sexual assault. However, this topic is still not widely taught as part of sex education in schools worldwide. As such, many people (even adults) still do not understand what consent looks like. One of the consequences of this lack of awareness about what consent is and looks like is that many people falsely assume that a victim consents to violence when she fails to fight back or to tell the perpetrator to stop. To avoid making this assumption that directly feeds into victim blaming, take the initiative to learn about consent – what it looks like, how to tell when consent is absent, and how to recognise situations when consent is impossible.

Suggestion for Smashing Victim Blaming #14: Start With The Kids

No child is born knowing how to victim-blame. They learn to victim-blame from the adults around them – sometimes by observing and absorbing victim-blaming behaviour as the norm, sometimes by directly being taught to do so (and enabled) by their parents, teachers, coaches and other adults. If you have kids or if you work with kids, take action to teach them about the importance of consent, gender equality, and respecting women and girls. Talk to your sons and the boys you teach or mentor about why VAW is wrong and how to speak up when their peers make light of VAW. Acknowledge that you are a role model for the children around you whether you like it or not and make sure to set a good example of not victim blaming when discussing high profile VAW cases in your community and in the media.

Suggestion for Smashing Victim Blaming #15: Get Your Community Educated

A good start to eradicating victim-blaming attitudes from your community or neighbourhood is to start educating as many people as possible about VAW and the importance of supporting survivors and holding perpetrators accountable regardless of their standing in the community. This can be done in collaboration with your local rape crisis centre, domestic violence nonprofit, women’s organisation or police community outreach officers who can work with the community, local schools and local companies to organise and implement talks, townhall meetings and other group sessions to talk about this issue.

Suggestion for Smashing Victim Blaming #16: And Finally – Always Support Victims and Survivors

At the heart of victim blaming is the goal of taking away support for victims and survivors in order to protect the perpetrator. Break that cycle by stepping up to unequivocally support VAW victims and survivors. There are many ways you can do so, including speaking up to intervene when victims and survivors are being shamed or attacked by victim-blamers, helping survivors find the resources that they need to heal and rebuild their lives, and accompanying them to court if they choose to try to bring their attacker to justice. And listen to victims and survivors – always listen and believe victims and survivors.