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

Be Strong, Speak up and People Will Listen

My Senior year of high school was full of AP classes, college courses that I was taking to try to eliminate courses I would need when I actually got into college.  Everyone in my school took Psych AP.  EVERYONE.  They all said the teacher was fantastic, the course itself was so interesting and best of all most of my friends would end up in my class with me!

In high school, I wasn’t the activist I was now.  I thought a lot of things and wanted to get involved but I never really had the confidence to do so.  I remained silent.

The very first day in my Psych class, we went through the usual introductions and met our outspoken teacher.  He was the kind of teacher full of energy and willing to push the rules a slight bit….

We began our very first class discussion about the differences between men and women.  As he lectured the topic slowly shifted to the reasons why men’s sports were much better than women’s.  Men were more entertaining and better athletes.  He just went on and on and on, bringing up ‘facts’ about how all the major games are men’s sports, the majority of the money from the school is received by the men’s teams, maybe if women’s teams were better athletes, they’d have more viewers, women’s sports were a joke.

I sat there stunned.  My heart was racing and more than anything I wanted to just scream at him, how dare he say that?  Those were blatantly sexist statements!  Women’s sports were a joke???????  I just sat there dumbfounded with my mouth open, looking around to see if anyone else was as surprised as I was and I wasn’t alone.

He continued bringing up what he called ‘facts’ and finally, I couldn’t take it anymore.  He said “women aren’t even in racing because they can’t do it.” and that was my last straw.  As many of you know, I was raise around Drag Racing and was always well aware of how women were viewed in the sport.

My hand shot into the air.  It was like it flew up all on its own, I had absolutely no control over it.  He paused and looked at me and said yes?  I told him “You know you’re wrong.  Shirley Muldowney began racing cars in the 1970s, she was a top fuel driver and men in the sport told her to get back to the kitchen where she belonged but she never listened to them and beat them.  Rhonda Hartman-Smith was another woman racing top fuel, Angelle Sampey races motorcycles and Melanie Troxel is coming back into the sport.  Who told you women can’t race cars?”

It just came out of my mouth and there was no way to stop it.  Just like my hand, it was a knee-jerk reaction, it just happened.  I had never spoken out like this to anyone, ESPECIALLY to a teacher or any adult in an authoritative position.  That statement stopped the few boys from laughing in the class and several more girls began to speak out.  However, it didn’t phase our teacher at all, he tried to argue with me and just make a complete joke of what I had just said.

The worst class in the entire world finally ended and I just unleashed my thoughts about this teacher to my friends who were with me.  How could everyone like him so much when he is so rude and narrow minded!!?? 

That night I went on my computer and made a list starting in the early 1900s of women in racing and their accomplishments, stapled it together and was ready for battle the next class period.

We all sat down, waiting and then he entered the room.  He started by saying he wanted to talk about yesterday’s lecture and I prepared to raise my hand again.  Then he dropped the bomb, it was an experiment, he didn’t actually believe any of what he said.  My mind was blown.  He went on to explain different concepts that applied to reactions by the class.  Then we continued our studies. He was not the horrible sexist monster I had battled with the day before!  He ended up being one of the greatest teacher I had during my high school career.

At the end of class, I went up to him and I told him I almost dropped the class! He told me that I surprised him, I seemed quiet and not the person to speak out first.  I laughed and presented him the list I made the night before to which he laughed and leafed through the pages.  He said “I like your dedication, you’re smart, you know how to argue.”

It was a long while after my senior year in high school, not until my senior year in college, that I remembered that I have a voice too.  I can speak my mind, I can argue intelligently about topic.  Instead of living a life of self doubt, lacking the confidence to say what we feel, we should all remember how capable we are and how our actions affect those around us.  I was the first to speak up in class during this experiment and after me other girls followed.  What if I had said nothing?  Would anyone have tried to say something?

Change happens when one person speaks.  That’s all that is needed, one person to raise their hand.  I’m not saying I changed the world in the slightest by that class room demonstration.   However people often say 2 things to me

1.Why do you keep talking about this stuff, nothing you do is going to change anything.

2. You should really just stop talking about this stuff.  Stop pulling out the feminist card (latina card, white card and the list goes on, who knew I was carrying so many cards with me?) every 5 seconds.  The only reason these problems like exist is because people of you keep going on and on and on and on about them.  If you just stop people will forget about it and they will be fine.

Each time these things are said to me, I remember that when one person speaks, those with similar beliefs go to them and then a group is formed.  That group grows and grows and grows until major changes are be made.  That is a fact.

I will never stay silent because as a society have the ability to change.  We have come so far, but there’s more to be done, not only in the states but around the world where women aren’t so lucky.

Don’t let lack of support or criticism of your voice ever stop you.  Be strong, speak up and people will listen.

♥ 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

Equality at the Races

Yesterday I went to the drag races. Growing up, that was the sport we watched in our house, not football, not baseball, I was the little girl who grew up with cars.

I love everything about it, speed, power, noise, nitro, the complete excitement of watching the cars run, the competition. People don’t realize what really goes into drag races.  It’s so much more than just running a straight quarter mile.

Unfortunately, one of the hardest things to deal with as a young girl and young woman is that it is a male sport so even attending the races, you will be faced with sexism.  To some (not all) a woman is meant to be in tiny shorts with a shirt that is about 5 sizes to small sitting atop a car to take pictures with or maybe hand you a free sample of something, maybe beer?  We are to be shouted at, we are to be gawked at.

I was so excited to start my time at the races. My idol, the first woman of drag racing, Shirley Muldowney was signing. She still has records that haven’t been beat. I’ve met her once before but any time you can meet your hero is amazing.

In line I was with my partner and an older man in front of us turned around, looked at me and said “I bet he (pointing at my partner) dragged you into this line and you don’t know you you’re going to see”. Then he laughed.  He wasn’t trying to be mean or anything, he was trying to start an innocent conversation.  He was older and typically older generations assume genders still fall into the stereotypes they grew up with.

I wasn’t angry, but I was frustrated. I smiled back and laughed saying “I was the one who dragged him to the races.  My dad taught my baby sister and I everything about drag racing. Mukdowney is my idol. You shouldn’t assume a woman doesn’t know what she’s taking about.”  Then I laughed, I wanted to correct his incorrect assumption, but I didn’t want to be mean about it.  I knew he really wasn’t trying to be hurtful, but it still did hurt.

The next experience was when I was looking at car products with my dad.  The salesman came up and stood next to me, saw me picking up products reading about them. Several minutes went by and he didn’t ask if he could help me at all. Once dad walked over to the stand I was next to, the sales man immediately asked him if he needed help and if he could be of any assistance. It goes without saying that women typically experience this lack of service when dealing with mechanic shops, car dealerships and other car related retail shops. Again, another frustrating moment, so I left. I told my partner I see how much I’m valued here, let’s go.

The final moment was leaving the drag races, walking though the parking lot at night.  Men were shouting things out windows, one guy was screaming how he wanted ‘boobs’.  As I walked by an R.V., a man knocked on the window. First, my partner looked up and I heard the man say “Not you, the girl” and then he said something unintelligible. That type of street harassment and cat calling is so hurtful to me. I hate it. I hate having to worry about what I’m wearing or the location in at.   It’s not like I have any particularly raunchy clothing or I’m dressed in something revealing, I’m not at all, but I still have to be careful.  I hate having to be near my partner or my father to avoid this harassment.  It makes me feel like nothing

I don’t think my partner really understand how hurtful those things are to me, or to most women. I don’t think a lot of men really understand how humiliating and upsetting these things are. I think some believe it’s innocent fun or a joke.

I know it shouldn’t affect me, I mean it’s a bunch of men and that shouldn’t bother me, it’s just words. Just like parents tell their children about bullies, let it go, their words can’t hurt you, but you know your child is still hurting.

What bothers me too is that, last year at the races I was walking with my mom and sister and a man shouted incredibly lewd things to me and no one said anything, they just looked. My mother though (in a mother’s fury) whipped around and said “She is young enough to be your daughter, you’re disgusting!”  That was very true, he looked twice my age (or more) and it felt good that someone said something.  I wasn’t alone.

This year I did find my voice though.  I refuse to remain silent when I’m treated like this and never again will my mouth stay shut, especially when the phrases directed at me are aggressive, lewd or disrespectful.  I always hope for the future to change, I think we all do, but it would be nice to live in a time where that hurtful behavior (the cat calling, not the first man) will be unacceptable and bystanders refuse to remain silent about that.

Also, I hope that maybe one day my partner will understand what it’s like to be a woman and to be accosted like that.  He does see a variety of behaviors as completely unacceptable and will stand by me and any decision I make, any reaction I have to a situation.  He will support me and that is always the best place to start, I just don’t think he always gets it, like my male friends, it kinda just goes over their head sometimes.

Have any of you ever been frustrated or hurt by street harassment or sexism?  Both men and women feel free to answer, this topic is definitely not limited to women.

♥ Meggie

You Need to Stop….

You need to stop making everything a gender issues

You need to stop acting like women have it so much harder in life

You need to stop with these feminist ideas, it’s just because you were hurt in the past by men, you need to just let it go and move on.

I’ve had all of these things told to me before, even very recently and I’ve been thinking about it more and more after watching the most amazing sketch on The Daily Show.  Jessica Williams tackled the topic of college campus assault.  She points out the differences that men and women face when entering various situations.

I know I bring up gender issues, but it’s not in a way that is over blown or “man hating”.  I think there are very negative gender separations with regards to male stereotype which I’ve written about before and I know there are very real and dangerous problems when it comes to being a woman in a patriarchal society.

How do I know this? because I’ve experienced them.  I know what it’s like to be afraid at night, to be cat-called and told it’s just men being ‘honest’ and giving me a compliment.  I know that more women are assaulted or kill than men and most of the times the perpetrator is a man.  I know that in our world, it is more common for a woman to be a prostitute, typically sold by a man and men are more likely to purchase them (and purchase from the sex industry in general), purchasing another human being like an animal to use and let go.  Keep in mind, before anyone freaks out with men are abused too and women purchase from the sex industry! Yes I am completely aware of it and I focus a lot of my education on men’s rights in regards to abuse & the sex industry.  These facts I’m stating are statistics and the majority of the instances women are the victims.

Though this may seem incredibly harsh, I think it is exceptionally ignorant to ignore these gender differences in society and to accept behavior that supports them, support behavior like cat calling or purchasing human beings or not speaking out when you see someone treated like this.  I will continue to speak out about all of the topics that I feel strongly about.

My biggest pet peeve is when people attribute my past negative experience with men to my current opinions or when they act like I hate men because that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  I’m not damaged goods, I’m not broken because of my past.  I am a perfectly capable and intelligent young woman  who has formulated opinions based on what I know & learn, what I’ve seen and yes my own personal experience.  I form opinions just like everyone else in this world so do not act as though I am broken and incapable of intelligent thought.  It’s not only frustrating, but it is hurtful to be looked at as broken.

I wish, in a perfect world, each gender could switch for a day.  Women then can experience the ridiculous expectation of masculinity and inability to express themselves that men face, we could see what it’s like for men who are dealing with issues like sexual assault or difficult topics like those.  Men can experience the harassment and fear women face going into situations at night, alone, with alcohol, being cat called, touched, groped, masturbated at and more.

Unfortunately, that can’t happen, but our society is becoming increasingly more aware of what we all go through.  As we continue to open our eyes, opinions will change, behaviors will change and I hope society will move in a more positive, accepting and understanding direction.

♥ Meggie