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Showing posts from May, 2017

Compassion at Work

Seventeen years ago this month, my daughter died from injuries suffered in a car accident.  She had just graduated from high school; she had won a scholarship to NYU, and was looking forward to a summer internship at the United States Institute for Peace in Washington, D.C.  During this time of anguish and grief, many of my family members, friends, and coworkers seemed lost and unable to talk to me.  They didn’t know what to say or do – and so many of them said and did nothing.  Years later, many would apologize and ask me to forgive them for their inability to share in my grief and show their compassion for what I was going through. 
I often think about that time in my life. Family and friends who braved the pain of losing Manda with me, who came and held my hand, shared a memory, cried and laughed with me, and brought me food and drink will always have a special place in my heart.  They didn’t talk about their own losses, but shared fully in my loss.  They created a place where I fe…

Transitions Allies in the Mock Trial by Susan Mathias

Although I am constantly reminded about how much the community supports the work that we do, the allies who agreed to take on acting roles in the  Mock Trial made me believe that we may be able to change the rape culture that exists in our society.  On Tuesday, April 18, I walked into Courtroom 1 of the Northumberland County Courthouse and was pleasantly surprised by a full courtroom.  The Mock Trial in a case named U.S. v Michael Davis focused on a college relationship in which a young woman alleged that she was raped.  It was a complicated case, as most sexual assault cases are.  There were no witnesses to what took place and alcohol was involved.  The victim, who had been drinking, had not given her consent to have sex but the defendant proceeded, even after she had said “no.”  The jury, comprised of volunteers from the audience, found the defendant, a college-age man, guilty of the lesser charge of misdemeanor sexual assault.  Two years ago, we held a mock trial in Union County, …

Second Assault: Avoiding the Devastating Effects of Victim Blaming

In the course of life, many of us will become the recipient of a victim’s disclosure of abuse or assault. In the work of domestic violence and sexual assault counselors, assault or abuse disclosures are common. When a survivor discloses to someone who places blame on the victim, rather than on the perpetrator, many say they feel as though they are experiencing a second assault.  Each time a survivor shares their story and unburdens themselves of a very private and traumatic secret, the listener should be aware of the privilege and responsibility that comes with being trusted with a moment of exceptional vulnerability.  Just a few important words in response to a disclosure, can profoundly affect the course of the survivor’s healing journey.
Try using these phrases to communicate your support and acknowledgment of a victim’s experience:
“I believe you.”  Three powerful words can set the tone for the survivor’s internal narrative. If she plans to tell her story widely and seek justice …

Taking a Few Steps Backward

When it comes to sexual harassment and assault, taking a few steps backward in regards to protections is never a good thing. April was sexual assault awareness month (SAAM), where we highlight the problem of sexual assault a little more heavily than usual. Much advancement has been made over the years in combatting sexual assault; however, the fight is far from over. On March 27th, just a few days before he would make a declaration that April would be SAAM, President Donald Trump signed an executive order overturning the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act, signed by President Barak Obama in 2014. Among other protections, this act would require companies who have federal contracts to be open about what they’re paying their employees and not allow them to keep sexual harassment, sexual assault, or discrimination allegations or cases in private. This is called an arbitration clause, which companies put in employees’ contracts “to keep sex discrimination claims out of courts an…