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Community Event Highlights: Denim Day for Sexual Assault Crisis Center (Fox Cities)

Each year, Outagamie County employees vote on 12 local charities they would like to contribute to.  Once per month, Outagamie County has a Denim Day in which employees donate a minimum of $5.00 to the selected charity and wear jeans on Denim Day.  In the month of August, the Sexual Assault Crisis Center-Fox Cities was chosen as the local charity.  Flyers were placed around the different divisions to remind employees of the upcoming denim day.  As a result, Denim Day on August 2nd included 156 participants and raised a total of $910 for the agency. This goes to show that a series of small donation can really go a long way in a short amount of time.

This is another example of the positive supportive network the SACC-Fox Cities has established with the Department of Human Services and others in the county who work to help families in need.

A special thanks to Helen Kobussen at Sexual Assault Crisis Center in the Fox Cities for this contribution. If you are interested in highlighting your event, please contact Peter Fiala at




Posted in Community, Events, General, Uncategorized.

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Article Offering: What Teens Need to Know Before Dating

*This article is being offered by The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of our agency.

One day, your little one is skipping down the sidewalk with her hair in pigtails and a firm grip on a teddy bear. The next, it seems like, she’s bouncing down the stairs on her way to greet her first date. Watching kids grow and mature, especially during the teenage years, can be a bittersweet experience. It can also be the harbinger of the most difficult period of your parenting career. Preparing your child for the world of adult interactions, romantic entanglements and independence isn’t always easy, especially when you’d much rather they stayed small forever. Just as you can’t keep a child from growing into an adult, neither can you stem the tide of romantic attraction and the desire to date. All you can do is hope that you’ve instilled the values that you set out to, and that you’ve adequately prepared your teenager for the complicated and sometimes painful world of dating.

Read more here:

Posted in Teen Issues.

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Community Event Highlights: 3rd Annual “No Community without UNITY” Resource Fair, Milwaukee

The 3rd Annual “No Community without UNITY” Resource Fair took place June 29th in memory of Shanica Adkins. Shanica was a University of Wisconsin‐Madison Senior, majoring in social work, who was killed December 27, 2009 when the car she was in was struck by an SUV fleeing Milwaukee police during a high speed chase.

Sponsored by Remembering Shanica Adkins and in part by the Impact Coalition for Families, the event is meant to encourage collaboration among community organizations, help develop and maintain community capacity, and to promote advocacy, healing and positive community engagement following a death or tragedy within a community. The event is also meant to encourage healthy conversations about the way that crime is addressed in the City of Milwaukee as well as to work towards building more positive relationships between the Milwaukee community and law enforcement.

Rev. Dr. Alice Belcher, B.A.|M.S.|D.D. of the Impact Coalition for Families (ICF) answered a few questions about the event:

How do you believe it helped sexual assault survivors?

At this event, survivors often approach ICF personnel and share their stories of survival; some ask to continue the conversation. ICF is reaching one its major goals by their comfort level to “talk‐about‐it” in a culturally relevant way, which is a part of the ICF system of approach in reaching our community through our “each one, reach one, teach one” methodology.

What did participants learn as a result of this event?

ICF provided a non‐intimidating and family fun approach to the sensitive topics of sexual assault and domestic violence, through its specially designed ICF Trivia game and the ICF I.Q. Test, which are both child and adult appropriate. Children and adults had the opportunity to learn and be empowered in a non‐threatening, age‐appropriate manner, have fun, win prizes and receive free giveaways. Thecommunity and its service providers ‐ the Milwaukee Police and Fire Departments ‐ participated and took the ICF I.Q. Test as well. They had an opportunity to assess what they knew about sexual assault and domestic violence and gained factual information for prevention and referrals for continued care and other resources. Many were surprised at what they thought they knew and were glad they participated and learned more.

What did you learn as an organizer (or one of the organizers)?

What continues to be confirmed for ICF as we continue to reach into our community is that our community is ready to be educated and informed about sexual and domestic violence prevention. They are willing and quite capable (once given the information, knowledge, and educational know how) to empower and advocate for violence prevention and sustainable social justice change in our community.

What are similar upcoming events readers might be interested in?

Impact Coalition for Families just completed another Community Health Fair on Saturday, July 20th in collaboration with some of its faith‐community at God’s Glory Church. Impact Coalition for Families also provides for FREE community seminars, trainings and workshops through the year. Our next free community seminar is Court Responsiveness to Abused Women Experiences, held Saturday, July 27, 2013, 10:00am‐12:00pm and presented by Rev. Dr. Alice Belcher, B.A.|M.S.|D.D. For more information, see the Impact Coalition for Families, Inc. website:

Thank you to Rev. Dr. Alice Belcher, B.A.|M.S.|D.D. for the background on this article.

See for more information.

Posted in Community, Events, General, Uncategorized.

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National Internet Safety Month: Caveat Lapsus (“surfer beware”)

National Internet Safety Month, June 2013
Caveat Lapsus (“surfer beware”)
by Stephen Montagna

June is National Internet Safety Month (, and with more and more of our lives moving online there is no time like the present to assess your use of the internet.

Safety may seem like a weird term to apply to virtual interactions. We usually think of safety in terms of bodily harm; if you’re embarking on some physical challenge, wear the appropriate protective gear, and so forth. Even if we think of safety in broader, technological terms, we usually think of the threats in the way of viruses and such. A well-crafted internet virus can wreak havoc on your computer’s speed, and compromise sensitive data.

But, those of us in the violence prevention movement understand that safety relates to how we feel, and that all violence lies on a continuum; what starts out in the virtual realm can lead to someone hurting us in the real world. What starts out as words can end up in a physical attack. With more interactions taking place online, the internet has opened up a Pandora’s Box of opportunities for those who wish to do harm.

This is not meant to instill you with fear, or persuade you to give up your laptop, smart phone, tablet, or – heaven forbid – stop posting on Facebook! As with anything the human race has created, the technology itself is benign; it’s the application that’s the problem.

So what’s a web junky to do? Well, become an informed consumer. Just as we warn “caveat emptor”, so too do we wish for victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence to be aware and informed of how to use technology safely.

The most important word to remember: access. The safety of your data is dependent upon controlling access to it. This means not only controlling who gets access to your computer, but also who has the ability to access the user accounts of all the different sites you may have memberships in.

The single best thing you can do to control access is to use discrete passwords for all the different sites you access – ie: different password for Facebook than for your online banking than for your Pinterest account, etc. If you’re worried about trying to remember all those passwords, try getting your hands on 1Password [] or some other utility that can manage them for you and store them encrypted on your hard drive, or in Dropbox (cloud storage).

If you want to understand more about how to create and manage passwords, check out the WCASA Social Media Guide, which I created while I was on staff there as the Violence Prevention & Communications Coordinator. You can download it as a PDF, and access other resources and links from the Social Media page in the Media & Technology section of WCASA’s website:

You can also check out the NNEDV Safety Net Project’s array of resources. And, of course, you are still welcome to contact me for technical assistance on these topics in my new role as Safety Net Technical Assistance & Training Specialist with the National Network to End Domestic Violence at

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Just browsing around…

The more information becomes available online, the more hours of our days we will spend using a web browser. Most people don’t pay too much attention to their browser – after all, it’s the content it serves up, the web pages you’re visiting, that are the important part, right?

True. Still, there are ways that your browser can assist you in getting work done and staying organized if you’re willing to occasionally think outside the box that web site content is in.

Below are some tips – ranging from the rudimentary toward slightly high-tech; if you’re a novice user, you may find them enlightening; if you’re a heavy-duty geek you will more than likely find them boring, in which case please add to comments below with your own suggestions for how you squeeze the most out of your web browsing experience.

* note: most everything described below will work with the most popular, modern, cross-platform (Windows and Mac) browsers – Internet Explorer (Win only) Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera.



The first thing you need to think about, if you’re not already, are tabs. All the modern browsers are tabbed – that is, in addition opening more than one browser window at a time, you can open multiple web pages within a single browser window – each in it’s own tab.

Different browsers handle tabs in different ways although the basic principles are the same; most are set to open any link you click on in the same window you are currently in, but can be set to instead open any link in its own tab. Why would you want to do this?

1) search results

Ever performed a search and got lost down a rabbit hole, and then wanted to get back to that original page of results? From your search results page Command-click (Mac) or Control-Click (Windows) and the link will instead open in its own tab; decide it’s not the right item/article you’re looking for? – your original search page is still there in the first tab. You can compare various search results side-by-side by opening multiple tabs.

2) planning a trip

If you have to travel for an event somewhere – say a conference – perhaps you have a browser window open with the page for the conference; you can open another tab and search for the location in Google Maps; and open another to price out airfares (even compare competing airlines side-by-side).


Bookmarks bar

Every modern browser allows you to create bookmarks – quick reminder links back to pages you visit often. Generally when you add a bookmark it gets dumped into a list; if you’re like me, this list can get long and cluttered very easily, so keep this organized – you can nest bookmarks into folders.

Another tool that’s handy is that browsers have a bookmarks bar (it may be called different names depending on the browser). This bar – which normally runs across the top of the browser window under the main toolbar/address bar – may be hidden by default, but can be turned “on”; it allows you to drop the most important links at the top of the browser window. You can also create folders and nest bookmarks here.

One of the “tricks” is that most browsers give you control over how these bookmarks are named; you’ll note when you first add one, it defaults the bookmark name to the page name (the name the programmer puts in the Title field of the page’s HTML code and that appears at the top of the browser window). You can edit this, thus giving you more room on your bookmarks bar.

Want to get even more clever? Use UNICODE characters – these are the symbols that are part of fonts outside of the usual arabic alphabet.


Status bar

The Status bar generally runs along the bottom of the browser window. Again, like the Bookmarks bar, it may be turned off (or hidden) by default; some browsers – like Firefox and Chrome – have made it visible only when you mouse-over a link on a web page. That really is its only job – to display the “status” of the link you move your mouse cursor over; mouse-over a link and it displays the URL (Universal Resource Locator, or internet address) that the link points to.

The advantage to having it visible is that it can give you, the end user, some “heads-up” as to what clicking the link you’re currently pointing at will mean; by looking at the URL, you can tell if it’s going to open a web page on the site you’re on, or on a different web site, whether that page will by default open in a new window or tab, or if the link in fact points toward a file rather than a page.




Not for the faint of heart – some sites provide “bookmarklets”, these are bookmarks that are actually a piece of Javascript code that do things; if you’re savvy enough, you can “roll your own”:

1) email

Copy the following text:


Go to your browser and find Show All Bookmarks in your Bookmarks menu, and create a new Bookmark, in your Bookmarks toolbar; paste the code into where it asks for Location. Name it “email” or “email with Title/Text”

This link will create a new email in your email application (must be a desktop client, like OutLook or Mail) with the title of the web page as the Subject of the email, and the URL pasted into the body. Wanna get more fancy? Do the same, and in the middle of the javascript where you see “(location.href=’mailto:?SUBJECT”, enter an email address after “mailto:” – such as:


This will cause the link to do everything listed above, but ALSO plunk in that email address; this makes, for instance, sending content from your work computer to a home email account (or vice-versa) a matter of couple of clicks.


2) Quix

A pre-built javascript applet that connects to an online web application – that’s basically what Quix is; and it’s free!

To begin, visit and click and drag the orange “button” called Quix App to your Browser’s Bookmark bar. When you click on the Quix bookmarklet, it opens a window into which commands can be typed; simply type “help” to get a list of all commands.

What’s cool about Quix is that the commands will work on either text that you input into the Quix window, or any text that you have selected on the current web page. For instance, select any bit of text, click the Quix bookmarklet, type “g” and hit enter. Whatever text you have highlighted will be entered into a Google search.


This is just a scratch on the surface; there are lots of ways to speed up your web-based work. What are yours? Share your ideas in Comments!

Posted in Technology.

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Of trauma and healing…

May is National Trauma Awareness Month; to mark the occasion, WCASA reached out to our ally and colleague Jennifer Jones, Interim Executive Director at the Wisconsin Children’s Trust Fund for some insight and context.

Ms. Jones, a native of Beaver Dam, graduated from Marquette University with a BS in Social Work. Her work has taken her to Boston and then back to Wisconsin again, spanning the past twenty years.

(Stephen Montagna, Violence Prevention and Communications Coordinator) What drew you to children, children’s health & safety, and your work in this movement?

Jennifer Jones: The devastating impact of poverty on children and families, in particular is what drew me to the social work field. I immediately packed up my belongings the day after graduation and drove to Boston to begin my professional career immersed in addressing hunger and homelessness.  After 8 years in Boston, I moved back to Wisconsin and with continued focus on improving the lives of children, began working specifically in the child welfare arena with the Department of Health and Family Services. The more deeply I engaged in child welfare practice and systems, the greater my awareness grew of the connection of poverty to child abuse and neglect and the importance of prevention. After several years in deep-end system work, I was hired to serve as the Associate Director of the Wisconsin Children’s Trust Fund with the responsibility for advancing a statewide agenda to promote child abuse and neglect prevention. In essence, I’ve been working with children and family related issues for my entire 20-year professional career.


What sort of connection does National Trauma Awareness Month have to the work of the CTF?

JJ: I think drawing attention to trauma is important – not just during this month but throughout the entire year. Trauma Awareness Month provides a venue for raising the issue of trauma on a broader level.  The Children’s Trust Fund is particularly interested in trauma as it relates to children who are abused or neglected by their caregivers. I commend the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault for using this month of May to expand the focus to include trauma associated with violence and abuse.


What is the significance of the ACE study and how does it relate to the work of CTF?

JJ: The original Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study conducted by Drs. Rob Anda and Vincent Felitti from 1995-1997 was the first large scale study of its kind to document the significant and profound relationship that child abuse and neglect and other adverse experiences have on later adult physical and mental health outcomes.  In 2010, in partnership with the Child Abuse Prevention Fund of Children’s Hospital, and the Departments of Health Services and Children and Families, CTF raised funds to include the ACE module in the Wisconsin Behavioral Risk Factor Survey.  For the first time, we were able to examine and understand the prevalence and impact of adverse childhood experiences among Wisconsin adults.  Our findings mimic those of the original ACE study – 56% of Wisconsin adults reported growing up with at least one ACE.  The findings showed that certain ACEs were highly correlated with an ACE score of 4 or more.  For example, of those individuals who reported growing up with a household member that was incarcerated, 64% reported having experienced at least 4 ACEs.  Incarceration of a family member goes hand in hand with a number of other ACEs.  For the Children’s Trust Fund, this raises a critical question about prevention – if we work with children now who are growing up with an incarcerated family member, can we mitigate exposure to additional adverse childhood experiences and ultimately reduce the negative outcomes associated with higher number of ACEs?  The ACE findings – both the original study and Wisconsin’s data highlight why prevention efforts are so critical. If we can reduce the number of adverse experiences earlier in the lives of children, I believe, we can have a significant impact not only on their individual lives but on the many systems that serve them.


What are the connections between the work of the CTF and the sexual assault advocacy and violence prevention movement?

JJ: The Wisconsin ACE data demonstrated that ACEs tend to indicate a greater likelihood of other traumatic experiences. This is particularly notable given the CTF focus on prevention.  Among those who were sexually abused, 28% have 2-3 ACEs and 57% have 4 or more ACEs.  In addition, the strongest association in the Wisconsin data was between ACEs and mental health, particularly pronounced among adults reporting childhood physical and sexual abuse. Among adults who reported sexual abuse, the odds of frequent mental distress more than doubled.  Frequent mental distress is defined as experiencing 14 or more “bad mental health days” out of the past 30 days.  In a recent study by Cassandra Simmel, Et.Al., examining the relationship between the experience and disclosure of childhood sexual abuse and subsequent adult sexual violence, found that physical force during the childhood sexual abuse experience was significant in adult revictimization experiences. Consistently the research shows links between child maltreatment and sexual assault victimization. There’s a lot we can do together to have a positive impact on the lives of children and families in our state.  This work is well underway through the Forward Wisconsin Initiative [PDF download], a collaboration working to enhance efforts to change social norms and community tolerance for violence.  This collaboration includes representatives from the Wisconsin Departments of Health Services and Children and Families, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Governor’s Council on Domestic Abuse, the Child Abuse Prevention Fund of Children’s Hospital, Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Children’s Trust Fund.


What opportunities might National Trauma Awareness Month present to CTF, child safety advocates, and violence prevention practitioners to raise awareness and extend the reach of their messaging? 

JJ: Awareness, in itself can be healing.  The more individuals are aware of trauma and its impact on their physical and mental health, the greater their ability to begin recovery and healing from traumatic experiences.  Dedicating a specific month to building and generating awareness of trauma is a vital component in the broader outreach and educational campaign.  The ACE & Trauma Workgroup, convened by the Children’s Trust Fund and composed of key experts statewide has identified public awareness and education as a key priority for 2013 and beyond.  However, it’s critical to take this work beyond building awareness by offering individuals and agencies meaningful strategies to address trauma in their individual lives and in the lives of clients. I look forward to a future theme and focus of National Trauma Awareness Month on adverse childhood experiences and the resulting impact on the health and well-being of children and families throughout Wisconsin.

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Is sexual assault a public health issue? You bet it is…

A conversation with WCASA’s Rose Hennessey, MPH

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)! And, April 1–7th is National Public Health Awareness Month.

Last month, WCASA welcomed Rose Hennessey to our staff as the Prevention & Evaluation Coordinator. Rose studied at the University of Minnesota, where she was Violence Prevention Intern and coordinated college events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. While doing this work she developed an interest in prevention and decided to do her Masters in Public Health Education at UCLA. There, she worked on Project Erin (Emergency Response Intervention Network) at the Children’s Institute, Inc. where she did case management on domestic violence cases with mostly Spanish speaking children and families. She was also therapeutic support advocate for their PCIT (Parent‐Child Interaction Therapy) program.

WCASA prevention staff sit discussing public health

SM sits down with Rose H.

WCASA’s Violence Prevention & Communications Coordinator sat down with Rose to discuss the intersection of public health and sexual violence.

You can view the interview via YouTube (15 min)

The following is an excerpted transcript of that conversation:


Stephen Montagna, Violence Prevention and Communications Coordinator: What made you want to pursue a degree in Public Health?

Rose Hennessey: When I was in my undergrad, I was a Biology major. I was interested in science and interested in that kind of research development; but I was also a prevention educator. So I was going into fraternities, and talking to… anyone in the community really; I think I counted more than fifty presentations when I was there. I thought: this is really where my heart is – preventing violence. Most people who go into the field, they’re maybe lawyers, or therapists, or advocates. And I just felt, I really want to do the prevention work. I remember sitting down with someone and saying “well, how do we prevent violence?”, and they said “well, we use the public health model”, and I said “what’s that?” – and they said “you should go learn about it”!


SM: So your prevention work actually pre-dated the public health, you actually saw the public health work as a means toward accomplishing a prevention goal?

RH: Yes.

SM: What’s the connection between sexual assault and public health? When someone said, “check out these models”, what did those models tell about – what did you learn from public health about sexual assault?

RH: I think that it doesn’t take much digging to look at the health impacts. Especially in sexual assault, we’re looking at the impact of STD’s, HIV, that’s I think the most obvious, clear link. I think I just read that 40% of IPV (intimate partner violence) or sexual assault [incidents] have a physical injury, that go with them. Whether thats a broken arm, scrapes, lesions, something like that; so we already see those health effects there, leading up to, unfortunately to death. And anything that is a cause of death I think can be linked to being a public health problem.


SM: I find myself using the comparison with the word pandemic. We think of an epidemic, an outbreak; a pandemic, something that spreads world-wide. Is that appropriate? Are public health practitioners making that comparison – sexual assault is just like a disease in some ways?

RH: Very much so.

SM: Different because it’s not caused by a biological agent, it’s caused by personal behavior. But still, in terms of how wide-spread it is, we can think of it as a pandemic.

RH: Yeah, and I think especially because we have been able to do things and see tangible prevention results, if it’s something we can prevent, just like we can prevent onset of diabetes…then the model of prevention from the public health framework is going to be a really good fit. And is a really good fit.


SM: What can the SA prevention movement learn from the Public Health movement?

RH: Well I think the nice thing about the public health background is this science-y, research background that they’re really bringing in. Especially in terms of surveillance and tracking systems, so some of these great national reporting systems – but even just the ability to track and measure things over time. I think that sometimes that’s not something that we’ve had the money or time or knowledge, resources in the sexual assault movement to always accomplish. I also think that if we’re going to invest time in prevention, we should be doing things that we think really work well, not just maybe feel good. And I think that’s something that the public health folks and their models have really taken in looking at those outcomes and making a commitment to continue the things that are effective, and modify those things that aren’t, or discontinue them.


SM: So what about the other direction? Do you think there’s anything the public health movement can learn from the SA prevention movement?

Well I think about this a lot; I feel like it’s very difficult for folks in public health to come into domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault prevention. More so than it is to go into poison prevention, cancer research, or that kind of thing. And I think it’s because there’s such a strong root in social change work, in social organizing, this movement that has originated from feminist upbringing. When you look at the framing of violence prevention as a public health issue, I think the first real great documentation is 1979, there was a health report released in the United States… but that’s a pretty young movement. When you think about the movement of ending violence against women – I mean, this has been going on and on and on. The activism that you see in our movement, the number of people calling legislators to pass VAWA, the Take Back The Night events happening globally. We see some of that in Relay for Life, some of your breast cancer awareness [campaigns], but I don’t think the investment and the activism is as strong and I think that’s something that the public health movement could really learn from the sexual assault movement.


SM: As someone who started in the movement as a prevention person, there are times where prevention and advocacy can – for lack of a better term, metaphorically – “butt heads”, because advocacy is responding to the real experiences of survivors, and prevention people tend to play with hypotheticals.  And because the movements really started as a sort of call for perpetrators to be [held] accountable. We know these crimes are perpetrated by individuals, or by groups, we want those people held accountable. When you’re talking about a public health model – taking a step back and trying to see the causes that lead to this, there can be a tendency for some people on the advocacy side to think that you’re actually letting the perpetrator off the hook. How do you mitigate that?

RH: That’s interesting. I think it’s something that would come up in certain contexts. I think it comes down to this idea that the act is never okay. Whatever is causing it is never okay. Now, if we just leave it at that, we’re not going to have enough knowledge to prevent it. So it’s important to take it another step. But, I think that that has been a tension; and holding those folks accountable – I was really excited when I saw WCASA’s state prevention plan because offender accountability is one of those objectives. And I thought, that’s really wonderful, because it’s making it really clear that in the midst of all of this we’re not going to forget, that if we live in a society where people can do whatever they want and are never held accountable, we’re probably not going to prevent this.


SM: Where would you like to see the SA prevention movement go? What are we not (yet) doing that we should be?

RH: Well, in my perfect world, where I have as much funding as I want, and time… I think that it’s really common that when we are doing prevention efforts we are only doing one thing because that’s what we have capacity to do. So maybe in this town they’re doing — you know, events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month; and maybe over here they’re doing a curriculum with their teens; and over here they’re doing something else. But, we know that if we’re really going to prevent sexual assault it’s got to be a multifaceted approach. And that it’s never going to be enough; that every input that comes at us as human beings, that’s pushing us in certain directions, that we’re not going to mitigate that with a one-hour presentation. I would like to see more multifaceted approaches that are really targeting multiple levels. And, with that I would really like to see more RCTs — or randomized controlled trials — of what’s going on, because when you’re looking at literature, if you’re looking for prevention, our evidence-based practices very frequently are based on one study that hasn’t been replicated in other settings and as we saw with the crime prevention stuff in the Chicago area — CeaseFire, when that was replicated in other cities they didn’t get the same results because the cities were different. But they got wonderful results in Chicago. So I think I would like to see more research done in a rigorous manner so that we know it’s effective and if we’re gonna talk about best practices we can be more educated about it. Specifically, in some of our unique communities, too, that really have different risk and protective factors that might not be targeted by some of those interventions made for the mainstream.


SM: When we think of the public health model, and Public Health Awareness Week going into Sexual Assault Awareness Month, what are some of the ways in which people can actually think in a public health way as they’re celebrating or marking the month? I know for instance, towards the end of the month we will have a lot of activities here in Dane County. We’ll have Denim Day. Is Denim Day a public health opportunity?

RH: I think a lot of the sexual assault awareness month events are in and of themselves, awareness. Any time we have an awareness event it’s a great platform to include prevention, and to think about those risk and protective factors; how can we talk about them? How can we engage in them? So, if were doing denim Day let’s talk about healthy sexuality at the same time. Let’s talk about would have healthy masculinity looks like.


SM: Steubenville [OH] Which is so much in the news right now, is that a good opportunity to have public health dialog?

RH: Well I think that using that framework is very good. There are times that the public health movement has been critiqued for not having enough of a social justice basis as well. And I think there is some very valid reasons for that claim. That’s something that’s really nice about working in our field, is that I think we bring I think we bring some of those social justice [sensibilities]. I’d say that having a public health discussion about that situation could definitely be the case. And anytime were talking about this also remembering a social justice framework, and bringing in some of those concepts can be really important.

Posted in Commentary, Prevention.

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No Health without Safety

{this article was submitted as part of WCASA’s call for reflections on themes related to National Women’s History Month}

By Lily Grant

If I had been born 50 years ago, my life would have been incredibly different. I would have had predominantly male doctors who were under no obligation to inform me of any side effects or contraindications of medicines they prescribed. My likelihood of finishing college would be about 40% (Special to CNN), and I would have no right to a safe and legal abortion. Undoubtedly, women’s lives have improved by leaps and bounds even in as short a time as 50 years. It’s important to recognize these achievements, especially during Women’s History Month, but we can’t lose sight of the ground that still has to be covered.

When I first set out for college, I heard from everyone that the undergraduate years are a time for exploration and learning, an opportunity to test your understanding of the world and see if it holds true. In my first two years here at UW-Madison, I’ve tried to do just that: I’ve attended debates, tried subjects I would have ignored in high school, and made an attempt to get in touch with the community around me. My four semesters here have taught me a great deal, but there is one unavoidable truth that remains in the background, one that appears unlikely to change any time soon: I am not safe. None of us, my friends, classmates, and relatives, none of us are safe.

Everyone knows the tips college-age women are supposed to follow in order to avoid rape: don’t walk alone at night, never leave your drink unattended, have a rape whistle or a can of mace on you at all times. I’ve heard these repeated by UW staff and Madison police. These standards reinforce the myth that rapists are strangers, crouching in a dark alley waiting to pounce as you walk by. In a society like ours, where 62-84% of women are acquainted with their rapist (oneinfourusa), asking a male coworker or casual friend for an escort home may actually put a woman in more danger.

This is not to say that any and all men are potential rapists, but the fact that the majority of rapists are violating women they know is important. It points to an overall trend that women’s bodies are not seen as their own property, even by men who know them. This was appallingly clear in the recent Steubenville rape case, when two young men allegedly drugged a sixteen-year-old girl and carried her unconscious body from party to party, where she was repeatedly sexually assaulted in front of witnesses who mostly remained silent (The Atlantic). [Ms. Grant’s piece was authored before the judge in the Steubenville case handed down the decision finding the defendants delinquent, the juvenile court equivalent of a guilty verdict – ed.]

This case is an extreme example, but the twitter feed and the video from that night that were released to the media bear striking resemblances to other portrayals of women’s bodies in the media.  Recent cultural events like the Oscars spread the message that women’s bodies don’t belong to them–with gags like Seth MacFarlane’s “We Saw your Boobs” song, calling actresses out for topless appearances in movies (some from rape scenes) in order to humiliate and degrade.

Closer to home, the new fad of confessions pages on Facebook has brought these attitudes to light; the page for the UW is peppered with jokes-that-aren’t-jokes like “no means yes, yes means anal,” which has gained almost 100 “likes” from other viewers of the page. Anyone who protests is shouted down by the claims that these comments shouldn’t be taken seriously. This attitude perpetuates the misconception that jokes are meaningless, but in reality jokes reveal a great deal about the cultural context that creates them. In this case, the underlying attitudes are that women don’t get a say in what happens to their bodies, and violations of their personal space make for an amusing story to be posted on a public page.

Clearly, despite the best efforts of the sexual assault awareness groups on this campus and elsewhere, a frightening number of students (men and women) aren’t getting it. They don’t understand what rape is because they aren’t analyzing the attitudes that allow rape to persist.

There is another serious problem with providing students checklists to avoid rape: it places the responsibility for preventing rape squarely at the feet of women. Aside from being stressful, restrictive, and practically impossible, it means that there is no accountability for rapists. Think about it; it is extremely rare to hear the words “don’t rape.” Obviously, the implications are harmful for survivors, especially because this unilateral responsibility to end rape perpetuates victim blaming. If it is a woman’s job to avoid rape then it must be her fault if someone manages to rape her. However, this practice is also detrimental to men; they are afforded almost no chance to learn not to rape in a popular culture that almost never makes them take responsibility for their own actions or empowers them to intervene in a situation like Steubenville, even when they know it’s wrong. There are rape prevention programs on every university campus, but none of them are mandatory, so their scope is limited. Programs like Coaching Boys into Men and Men Can Stop Rape focus on violence prevention through self-respect, and respect for others. They’re fantastic organizations that focus on male role models teaching boys and young men how to stand up in a peaceful way. But these groups can only reach a certain number of people and can’t teach everyone who could benefit from learning. Furthermore, male rape victims are invisible in this culture or, at worst, are taunted and accused of lying.

Knowledge is the first step to prevention, and I honestly believe that if all people were taught the reality of rape, how it happens and why, then more of them would make the right choices.

If we really want to take a stand on this issue, and challenge the subtle attitudes that allow rape to persist, then we first have to make it clear that respect is vital; rape wouldn’t be an issue if the right to one’s own body was universally respected. For my part, I think a strong start would be to make Gender Studies a General Education requirement here at the UW. If any university makes the statement that learning about gender inequality in our society is just as important as physics, biology, or literature, it might be easier for the students to put themselves in the shoes of survivors and those in danger, and really think about the consequences of their actions.


Lily Grant is a volunteer at the Wisconsin Women’s Network and a student at UW-Madison.

This article is also published on the WWN Blog.

Posted in Campus, Commentary.

World Poetry Day – a survivor’s story

Finding my identity

By Dawn Helmrich


Every day for months I could not look

I would walk by the mirror and stare at the ground

Nothing felt right about who I was


Dripped across the floor

Shapes of me that weren’t really me

Who was this stranger
This unidentifiable being that sifted slowly through life

Once a smiling, laughing, loving youthful soul

Now someone that I could not identify

Someone with a heavy load upon her back

How would I ever reclaim who I was before

I could not, there was no before

There was only now and I was in it

But not really in it

The hours and days continued and I was still present

Physically present, emotionally dead

How would I ever get to know this new person that lived inside my body

This person that carried a burden so thick with hurt and pain

When would I have a chance to be me again?

It did not happen in one day

It did not happen in one year

It is still happening

I slowly started to get familiar with the shadows that lay across the floor

Seeing them everyday, watching them drift and sway as I walked

Instead of dreading them I began to embrace them

I could not hide from them

I could not get away from them

They were different than the shadows I once knew

They were wiser, stronger, harder than the youthful laughing soul I once knew

They were still loving, but in a different way, cautious, deliberate

They still harbored pain and hurt

But they started to become my identity

The guilt of who I was began to fade into the blackness where it came from

The eyes that looked at the ground began to rise

There it was

There I was

In that mirror

A different person than before

A thoughtful, meaningful, loving, caring person

A beautiful person

A survivor…


Posted in General.

“End the Word” March 6 – Celebrate Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

banner: March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month thanks to a 1987 Presidential Proclamation from Ronald Reagan. A lot has changed since then, more people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are living and thriving in their communities rather than institutions, there are more opportunities, more protections and more respect for and inclusion of people with I/DD in their communities.

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is time set aside each year to raise community awareness about the people with developmental disabilities.  Developmental Disabilities is defined as a significant and lasting mental and/or physical impairment, a developmental disability occurs prior to age 22 and substantially limits a person in 3 or more major life activities. Learning, speaking, personal care, moving, hearing, making decisions and working are a few examples of major life activities. People with developmental disabilities are an important part of our community and have many gifts and talents to contribute.

People with disabilities are four to ten times more likely to be assaulted, robbed, or sexually attacked than people who are not disabled. One recent study found that more than 70 percent of women with developmental disabilities are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, which represents a 50 percent higher rate than the rest of the population.


Why Celebrate It? 

  • To learn about an important group that is struggling for full inclusion in US society.
  • To understand why laws were created to protect people with disabilities, and how they work.
  • To appreciate the great and small contributions people with disabilities make to our society.
  • To help improve attitudes and eliminate stereotypes that hold back people with disabilities.
  • To learn to separate people from their disabilities, so accomplishments are recognized without an inappropriate focus on disability.
  • To recognize that we are all just a heartbeat away from becoming disabled through illness or accidents.


What Can I Do? 

  • Learn about different disabilities and how they affect people differently: read, ask questions, and respect differences.
  • Support the efforts of people with disabilities to lead full lives, work at rewarding jobs, and participate in all aspects of life.
  • Correct and challenge stereotypes and slurs in media, advertising, and everyday conversation.
  • Support local groups working for diverse multicultural institutions.

banner image: Spread the Word to End the Word; Language affects attitude. Attitudes affect actions. Make your pledge to use respectful people first language.On Wednesday, March 6, people around the world will unite their communities to Spread the Word to End the Word®, as supporters participate in the 5th annual ‘Spread the Word to End the Word’ awareness day, aimed at ending the hurtful use of the R-word (“retard(ed)”) negatively impacting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

Watch “Not Acceptable”, the R-Word PSA on YouTube.

Language affects attitudes. Attitudes impact actions. Special Olympics and Best Buddies International encourage people all over the world to pledge now to use respectful language at and build communities of respect and inclusion for all people.

Posted in Considerations of Identity, General.