What About Us?

It’s been a while since I’ve felt the need to blog.

Last week, they announced the verdict of the Eric Garner case which resulted in the officer not being charged.  My heart sank, tears came to my eyes and my mind searched for a reason why this happened.  Just as Jon Stewart pointed out, unlike the ambiguities of the Ferguson case, this case had none, zero.  It was on video, filmed, the murder of this man by a police officer. Clear cut.  Not surprisingly, this proof did nothing.

Police brutality affects us all, however, minorities suffer a much greater impact, loss of life, assault.  The thought that my family could be pulled over for a DWH (driving while Hispanic) or worse…and that is a terrifying thought to me.  My skin is white, I don’t look mixed so I don’t have to be afraid.

There is another reason why I came here to blog.  Lately, NFL players have been voicing their protest of Eric Garner’s trial and Ferguson.  They have entered the field with their arms raised, they have worn shirts saying “I can’t breathe” and that same sentence has been written on their shoes, wrist bands and more.

I applaud their protest, I love that they are using their voice to speak up not only for minorities, but against police brutality, for the families who voices are so limited.  They made the choice to make a public statement, using their status to change our society and I love that.

At the same time though, it makes me want to scream at them in anger, it makes me want to cry, it makes me want to shake them and look them in the eye and say what about us!  Why weren’t there any players using their voice when a woman was knocked unconscious by her partner, why weren’t there players using their voice when a woman was raped, why weren’t their players using their voice when a child was beaten?

For decades, the NFL has harbored, supported and covered up domestic violence and sexual assault cases.  Finally, in 2014, something is being done about it.  Their own organization supports perpetrators of violent crimes, crimes of physical assaults and sexual assault, crimes that kill women and children.  Every day, it is estimated that 3 women are murdered in the United States by an intimate partner.

How many women can’t breathe because the man they love grabs their throat and tightens his grip? How many women can’t breathe because he broke her ribs? How many women can’t breathe because every day they are in fear for their lives?  How many children can’t breathe through their tears of pain? How many women and children can no longer breathe because their life has come to an end?

The video of a woman being assaulted and knocked unconscious brought attention to the problem that has been going on in the NFL for decades.  Since 2000 alone, there have been over 70 domestic violence related arrests….Players now have been asked to or forced into participating in Domestic Violence commercials and campaigns, but no player has voluntarily offered up his voice in this fight. Before this season, no player has voluntarily used his actions or clothing during a game or practice to say that what the NFL has done for decades is wrong, that the perpetrators of these crimes, the abusers, the rapists, the murders, should be in jail.

Again, while I can support their protest, I also have the right to feel angry at them for ignoring the abusers in their own organization.

Through my partner, a die-hard Chargers fan, I have a new-found appreciation and love for this sport.  I haven’t missed a Chargers game all season.  Even when I’m at work, I watch it on my phone.

However, as a woman, I feel that this sport, like so many others, is purely for men where women are reduced to the color pink, the amount of cleavage we show and how short our skirts are.  I can’t help but feel  ignored and marginalized knowing that higher ups in this organization would rather hide and protect these abusers for a profit then do anything about it.  Even the players don’t want to take a stand….

All I can hope for, as in most cases, is that things do change and maybe, eventually, these athletes will volunteer their voices for all of the women who have been harmed or killed.  I hope they will fight for a change.

♥ Meggie

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Ray Rice and Dometsic Violence

I’m sure by now everyone has heard about Ray Rice’s assault on his then finance Janay.  Another video was just released showing what actually happened in that elevator and his contract with the Ravens has been terminated and he has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL.

Unfortunately some people don’t understand the severity of domestic violence until they see it with their own eyes.  They can be told she was knocked out but after seeing a man hit a woman that hard, it has much more of an emotional “Oh my God” impact.  Then people understand.  I don’t think he would’ve been fired if that video hadn’t gone public.  If the NFL saw it but no one else, I think they wouldn’t have said a word.  Public outcry is the only reason they terminated his contract and suspended him.

Even though that may be true, I don’t think the video should have gone public.  First of all, it makes the victim relive that moment over and over again.  Second, survivors should be in control of their own stories.  They determine when or if it is ok to talk about their assault and what details to share, not the media.  The survivor always has to be in the forefront of our minds, not the scandal or ratings.

I read yesterday Janay’s reaction, blaming the public and media for her husbands termination and it breaks my heart.  It was his conscious choice to hit her twice and knock her out, it was his fault.  I wish she could say “The media shouldn’t have made that video public, that is my story to share, not theirs.  It is a shame what happened to my husband, but he shouldn’t have hit me.  There is no excuse for that.  His decision made him lose his job” because that’s the truth. 

I was also reading on Twitter a wonderful hashtag #whyIstayed and #whyIleft.  I hope that really shines light on domestic violence.  I’ve read so many people saying she stayed for his money….there are a lot of reasons why a victims stays even if their partner doesn’t have a dime to their name.  It’s a strange mindset to be in a relationships with someone who hurts you or doesn’t respect you.  At the time it makes complete and total sense to you when the rest of the world wonders why.  Living in fear, living with someone where you always have to watch your back becomes an every day habit, you get used to being afraid like it’s something normal.  That’s the point where you feel so worthless than you actually believe you deserve the way you’re being treated, that you did something to cause your partner to treat you that way, so you just be careful as to not to set them off.  That becomes your life.

There have been some very positive changes in society and as we all work together we can make a difference, we can make a change and we can fight this.

Side note: There is still space at the seminar I’m hosting with Jessie on October 11th at Benedictine University in Lisle, IL.  If you’d like to register, please visit www.1is2many.eventbrite.com.  If you don’t live in the area but still want to make a difference, I’m doing a walk for Mutual Ground, a local domestic violence/sexual assault shelter and am currently fundraising.  If you’d like to contribute please click here.

♥ Meggie

Hard Work Pays Off

For the last few months, I’ve been working my butt off.  A lot of things have happened recently.

First of all, the wonderful manager of WAR Chest took a well deserved trip.  So for the past 6 weeks, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work in the store on Friday’s.  It was so much fun!  I absolutely love talking to people and doing everything in the store!  I can’t think of one thing I dislike. 

She has also asked me to help plan events for the boutique, which I am so excited about!  Event planning is one of my favorite things to do.  It’s challenging, keeps me busy and I love coming up with creative new ideas! 

Not only that, I’ve been taking some photographs of volunteers as models.  This is something so new to me.  I love photography, but I don’t typically take photos of people so I’m learning the best ways to pose people and how to direct them to create the perfect shot.

Through that work with the boutique, I’ve been contacted by a local fashion blogger to potentially take photos for her blog!!  I should be meeting with her soon and I am so excited!  Also, a volunteer wanted to hire me to take photos of her grandsons.  How exciting is that?  I can maybe start making a little extra money doing something I love and continue to perfect my skills.  With student loans to worry about, any extra income would be wonderful.

I’ve taken over the Instagram account for Feral Fixers, a local cat rescue.  I’ve also been working more of their events and trying to help with marketing as best I can.  They’ve been working so hard to place so many cats and kittens in a home.   If you live in the Chicagoland area (especially Dupage County) check them out!

On top of that, I’m still doing a fundraising walk with my sister, my best friend Kristiii and my sister’s friend for Mutual Ground and I’ve just signed on to run a 5k for Traffick Free.

Finally, my pride and joy.  The last few months I’ve been working on a seminar to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault.  I have been emailing back and forth with Benedictine University and finally scheduled a time and reserved a room.  They have been so immensely helpful, I can’t even put into words!  It’s been really long days and nights, scheduling photo shoots for marketing material, editing those photos, adding our information, writing event details, setting up accounts, sending out press releases hoping to be picked up by someone, creating contact lists and so much more. 

I’ve been working so hard to get everything together and it is finally happening!  So far 9 people have officially registered and we are hoping for many many more.  I am getting to the point where I am almost completely exhausted, but so excited at the same time.

If anyone is interested in coming you can register at www.1is2many.eventbrite.com

I can’t thank the people who have been helping enough and I’m so excited to see the outcome of this event! Keeping my fingers crossed!

♥ Meggie

Stop the Victim Blaming

I was just reading this article about an ESPN reporter who went off about the Ray Rice situation.  For those of you who don’t know, Rice is a professional football player accused of knocking his then fiancée out and dragging her unconscious body into an elevator.  As of right now, his punishment is a 2 game suspension.

Stephen Smith begins by saying how deplorable it is for any man to lay his hand on a woman. He talks about how he would involve law enforcement.  A good start right? but then things get infuriating…

He continues to talk about thing he would tell women which would be “let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions” because we all know that in an abusive situation, the victim (man or woman) has obviously done something bad enough to be beaten.  WRONG!

Another reporter, Michelle Beadle, began to speak out against his ridiculous statement so he defended himself.  He reiterated that domestic violence is wrong, that no one should ever do it but of course he follows that up ” But what about addressing women on how they can help prevent the obvious wrong being done upon them?”  Are you being serious right now?  He obviously has no comprehension as to what an abusive relationship is.

I think if people could prevent domestic violence, no one would be in that situation in the first place….  Women’s actions do NOT cause an intimate partner to become violent with them.  Men’s actions do NOT cause an intimate partner to become violent with them.  How are they supposed to prevent it? Please do share with the world your preventative measures.  I’m sure we’d all love to hear them.

Do they include not dating a violent person?  Well, the thing is, with domestic violence perpetrators, victims don’t know they’re violent until they are already in the relationship.  Perpetrators don’t act violent toward everyone they know and they can be the most charming men/women you will ever meet.

Is another preventative measure to not be around them if they are under the influence of alcohol?  Well, alcohol does NOT cause domestic violence.  Alcohol, as everyone knows, lowers inhibitions and makes it easier for true personality to come out.

Domestic violence is about control over a person.  Victims can be men or women and perpetrators can be men or women.  Victims can feel lost, hopeless and worthless.  They can also feel as though they deserve these actions when in fact they don’t at all or they can feel that if they love them enough, the abuse will change.  No two victims feel the same way.

Let’s just remember though, a victims does nothing to deserve violence, a victims does nothing to provoke violence and any decision a victim makes really has no relation to violence.  If a partner is willing to lay their hands on the person they say they love, there is no reason for that ever and therefore women (or men) do NOT need to make sure they don’t provoke the actions of an abuser.

I truly don’t think he will ever understand why his statement was so wrong but this is why we need to continue to raise awareness of issues like domestic violence. We need to teach our young men and women what domestic violence and sexual assault is so our future generations don’t grow up saying statements like this.

♥ Meggie

Fighting for Change

It’s been a rough week last week.  A variety of things have just piled up and for a while, it just felt like nothing was going to work out and that I had hit a wall.

Always say positive and always keep your head up, that’s what I have to remind myself.  With the help of those closest to me, these hard times are made so much easier and I don’t know what I’d do without my friends.  I don’t know how many times I can say that about them.  I know I’m lucky.

I’ve made some changes to myself, fun ones.  I now have bangs and my hair is a dark purple.  I like the change a lot.  It’s fun, a bit strange and barely acceptable for my job, but that’s ok.  As long as they’re ok with it, then that’s all that matters! 🙂

I also had a meeting Wednesday with a local university about hosting the domestic abuse/sexual assault seminar there.  I’m working with another young woman too and she is incredible.  She is so knowledgeable and has so many valuable contributions to this event.  It just makes everything so much easier!  She is a wonderful partner for this project.

The meeting went so well, we were able to get a good deal to host the seminar there and right now we’re just waiting on a date and then I need an insurance quote (of course we need special event insurance).  We decided a Saturday in October would be  perfect.   Saturday most people have off work, it’s in the beginning of the school year when people are really active in their university and it is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  It’s perfect!

We’re both getting really excited about it.  Looking through our 7 page outline and handouts, it’s going to be so much fun to discuss these topic with people, sharing resources and information.  Each time I add or edit our existing documents, each time I create another marketing strategy, my excitement just keeps building.

We want our seminar to be different from the average event.   We don’t want the audience to be  talked at for an hour or two and listening to really heart breaking stories.  Those type of events typically attract people who are already interested in these topic or involved in the industry.  We want people who aren’t already involved or who are aware but haven’t gotten involved yet to come.  We want men to join in too.  We laid out this seminar to be a discussion where people can ask questions and discuss DV/SA in an open, judgement free area.  We want to hear people’s thoughts, opinions and questions and facilitate positive dialogue not only with each other but also (hopefully) with the administration of the university so students know where they can go for help or additional resources.

We all have to work together to solve a problem like this and I know it’s possible.  I am so excited that all of this is happening.  I think it’s about time I took a step like this and put myself out there.  I know I can do this and if we don’t get the amount of people we’re hoping for, we can always try again!  We can make a difference and by putting ourselves out there and going for it, that’s just the first step.  I’m not afraid to fail because no matter what the outcome is, I don’t see it as a failure.  We’ll learn how to improve what we’re doing until we get it just right.

I can’t wait for the next few weeks until everything is finalized.  I’ll keep everyone posted!

♥ Meggie

Why do you always blame men??

I am involved with a variety of issues which are typically considered “women’s” issues.  Domestic abuse, sexual assault, street harassment, human trafficking, subjects viewed as men attacking women, men hurting women, men treating women (for lack of a better word) like shit.  My Facebook wall is a public service announcement 24/7, filled with articles about men taking advantage of women under the influence or how men need to respect women and not shout at them, how women shouldn’t be forced to change the way they dress because some man will shout a lewd, disrespectful comment, men need to change, not women.

Because of all that, I typically get asked why do you always blame men?  There are two parts to this answer.

I am a firm believer that men don’t rape women, men don’t hit women, men don’t assault women, men don’t harass women in the streets.  Rapists rape women, abusers hit women, assault women, shout at women.  If I was passed out, none of the men I hang out with would rape me, they would take care of me.  If I was walking down the street with men I know, they wouldn’t shout at a woman.  If they like her, they would speak to her as an equal.  If they get mad at a girlfriend, they won’t hit her.  Why won’t they do these things? Simple, because real men treat women as equals.  Men respect women, men love women and men take care of women.

The second part of this answer is that a large part of my advocacy and public education is regarding men.  I strongly believe that men are incredibly underrepresented when dealing with DV/SA (domestic abuse/sexual assault) and a variety of other issues.  As a society, we tend to view these as a woman’s problem because the majority of the victims are women and majority of the perpetrators are men.

Not only that, men face different types of problems when trying to speak about any assaults.  “Of course men can’t get raped because a real man is strong and can defend himself.”  “Women cannot sexually assault men, they always want sex, DUH!” “Real men can take care of themselves, right?” This ridiculous stereotypes make it exceptionally difficult for men to disclose their abuse, especially if  a woman is the perpetrator.  This is the main reason why male assaults are so under reported.  This also makes it almost taboo for society to discuss male sexual assault.  Many people don’t know that 1 in 6 men are sexually assaulted before the age of 18, that men can get raped by women, that men do seek out services from DV/SA organizations.  At Mutual Ground, a DV/SA agency in Aurora, 3% of their clientele is men and that is slowly growing.

To create a society where women won’t be harassed in the street, where women won’t be assaulted or raped is to create a society where men can experience the same.  Men deserve as much respect, love and protection as we do as women.  Men deserve the right to come out and receive help & support after an assault.  We have to work together.  We can’t continue to blame 1 sex for “causing” this problem, this epidemic because this isn’t a women’s issue, this is a people’s issue.  Both men and women are the cause of it and both men and women are the victims of it.  Just because the percentage of victims is greater for one gender doesn’t mean the other isn’t affected.

I don’t blame men.  Those articles on my Facebook page aren’t about men.  They are about the real perpetrators, the rapists, the abusers, the cat callers, the street harassers.  Those people make society unsafe and those are who I speak out against, not men.

Bold Moves

I am a very anxious person.  I don’t really like going places alone, I am terrified of new people (even though I adore being around people) and I am afraid to try new things, to speak my mind. 

A lot of that has changed throughout the year and I’ve worked hard at dealing with my anxiety.  I go a lot of places by myself, I have pushed myself to be in positions that make me anxious and scare me so I can conqueror those fears and that has really helped me.  I am shedding these layers of anxiety and fear and just going for it, embracing life with nothing holding me back.

Now, I’m going to do something that makes me very anxious, I am going to plan an event.  I don’t mind planning events for others, I love it, but this one will be planned and hosted by me.  I have talked to several friends who are more than willing to help and participate.  My biggest fear though is that no one else will show up!

I want to engage my community and surrounding communities in raising awareness of domestic abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking.  Those are very difficult topics to talk about, so I have no idea where to start in planning this.  I have people who are willing to speak, myself included, but I’m not sure what else to include.  I’d love to have a day long event, where people can spend time and eat, have fun, raise money for various nonprofits but also learn about what is going on in our own backyard.  I want to bust the myths surrounding assault and trafficking, I want to come together as a community to work toward an end.

I am so excited that I am going for this and that all of my friends and family are so incredibly supportive.  I love sharing information and my own experience.  Sometimes people think they are all alone or they’re embarrassed about what they have gone through in life.  I know that’s how I felt.  I didn’t want to admit the kind of relationship I was in to people around me, I didn’t want to admit to myself that I was with someone who could care less about me.  I’m hoping if this event is successful, it will provide resources if anyone is in a situation like that.

If anyone has any suggestions how to engage my community, marketing or ideas for how to make this a fun day, please share with me!  I’d love to hear what you have to say.

♥ Meggie