Emerging Together

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Last year, STAR’s newly established New Orleans branch received a grant of $10,000 from the Emerging Philanthropists of New Orleans (EPNO). Since being awarded this funding, STAR’s New Orleans branch has accomplished the following:

  • Responded to 176 hospital call-outs 
  • Answered 409 hotline calls
  • Served 233 unique clients through our counseling, legal, and advocacy programs
  • Covered 92% of all hospital medical advocacy shifts since starting shared 24/7 coverage of hospital medical advocacy at University Medical Center in April
  • Reached over 3,800 people in the GNO area through tabling, panels, forums, presentations, and meetings
  • Engaged all universities in St. Tammany, Orleans, and Jefferson parishes
  • Participated in the New Orleans Sexual Assault Response Team and the Jefferson Community Coordinated Response Team
  • Hosted a Clergy Open House to engage the faith-based community and participated in Take Back the Night
  • Trained over 80 community members through our 40-hour STAR volunteer training
  • Presented to over 500 people who are currently incarcerated at the Orleans Justice Center (formerly the Orleans Parish Prison)
  • Established a growing internship program
  • Grew our staff from 2 full time staff members to 5 full time and 2 part-time staff members
  • Reached 100% staff giving to support our services

As with any new endeavor, we have also experienced challenges. These include:

  • Meeting the community’s ever-increasing needs with a small staff
  • Navigating new systems and relationships with community partners
  • Funding prevention and community education efforts

After an astonishing year of successes and challenges, STAR’s Greater New Orleans Regional Director, Margaret Reynolds, became interested in paying it forward this year. She applied for and was accepted into the 2016 Racial Equity EPNO team, which awarded a grant of $10,000 to BreakOUT!, an organization that fights the criminalization of LGBTQ youth in New Orleans.

Given her unique perspective as a former grant recipient and emerging philanthropist, Margaret was selected to give a speech at EPNO’s annual awards and graduation ceremony on November 2nd. Below is the text of her speech:

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Margaret Reynolds, STAR’s Greater New Orleans Regional Director

Good evening. Over the past two years, I have been in the unique position of both receiving and awarding an EPNO grant. Tonight, I’d like to not only talk about how this experience has informed my personal view on philanthropy, but also the impact philanthropy has had on the hundreds of survivors of sexual assault supported by the choices of last year’s EPNO class.

The effects of philanthropy are hard to calculate. While each grant application has measurables, outcomes, and goals, it can be difficult to discern the actual effect of your philanthropic dollars on someone who needs support.

Being a philanthropist is and should be so much more than simply giving money. Being a philanthropist is acting as a guide. It’s using your particular set of skills to strengthen others in the community. It’s a supportive role in every sense of the word. EPNO has taught us that, as philanthropists, it is our job to be diligent while empathetic and supportive while ensuring accountability.

To be a philanthropist is also to be an ally. It is to use our privilege to equalize power imbalances. Supporting marginalized members of our community means educating others on why and to whom we give. It is confronting the intersectional nature of oppression and using both our money and talents to work with our community partners to remove systematic barriers. Simply put, to be a true philanthropist is to commit to supporting others in a strategic, holistic manner.

So, putting theory aside, I’ll tell you about my experience. In my professional life, I work as the Greater New Orleans Regional Director of STAR, or Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response. It is my organization’s vision to build a community free from oppression and sexual trauma. To do this, we work to support survivors, create social change, and improve the systemic response to sexual violence. This is accomplished through free legal, advocacy, and counseling services available to all survivors and their friends and families.

As you can imagine, sexual assault is not always an easy thing to talk about, or for which to receive funding. But, two years ago, when STAR decided to expand for the first time, we needed to talk about it, a lot. So, we applied for our first grant in the GNO area (and incidentally the first grant I had ever written).

In the grant application, we asked for the full $10,000 from the 2015 EPNO Women’s Issues Team. We applied for funding to hire an AmeriCorps member as STAR’s Volunteer Coordinator. During the one-year grant period, it would be her job to recruit and train two classes of hotline and medical advocates.

A few weeks after submitting the grant, I took a road trip to Maine. On the way there, I received an e-mail from the Women’s Issues Team with “a few more small questions.” Answering these “small questions” took me from Alabama to northern Virginia. That is a long way. And, side note, I wrote all the answers on my iPhone while taking a lot of Dramamine for car sickness.

However, the questions posed were poignant. With a single three or four page grant application, that team was able to identify STAR’s areas of improvement and push us to critically think about ways to expand upon our initial plan. Neither before nor after that process have I experienced another grantor who has cared so much about the stewardship and impact of their donation.

So, after one of the most rigorous vetting processes I’ve ever experienced while applying for a grant, STAR was awarded the funding. Since then, Michaela (our wonderful Volunteer Coordinator) has moved on to Tulane Law School. But, during her year at STAR, she coordinated the training of 30 volunteers who have since served upwards of 200 clients over the hotline and at the hospital.

Those clients have been able to seek counseling, bring civil legal action, and utilize all the case management services STAR offers. They have been able to return to work, to watch their perpetrator be held accountable, to move forward with their lives, and to help other survivors in turn.

One can’t really calculate the impact of their philanthropic dollars, but I’m here to tell you they go so far beyond a few measurables.

After experiencing the EPNO process from the outside, I started asking questions of current members. I wanted to know what the vetting process was like, what other organization’s applications looked like. I wanted to see what it was like to give in a strategic, holistic way. But, I work at a non-profit, so $500 is about a year’s salary. Still, when I found out there was a payment plan, the rest was history. I joined the (some might say) best EPNO team, the Racial Equity team, and we started to meet weekly.

My team members challenged me and gave me new perspective. By the end of the year, we had defined racial equity, reviewed strong applications, and selected an organization that will impact their members in ways that go far beyond the single program we’re funding.

EPNO is integral to a vibrant community. I encourage you all to stay involved. Continue your efforts and keep in touch. Participate in GiveNOLA day. Find your cause, push your organizations to provide excellent services. Integrate the philanthropic perspective that EPNO has encouraged into your daily lives.

Because a strong New Orleans, one where marginalization is addressed and our citizens are supported, starts with organizations like EPNO and philanthropists like you.

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STAR NOLA Staff (July 2016)

 

Get involved and make change with STAR!

Agents of Change: Erin Douget

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There are many people in our community working to create positive change to end sexual violence. We want to meet as many of them as possible. If you would like to submit a recommendation, please email prevention@star.ngo.


 

We have short lives, but we have the ability to make them wide with love and compassion. If we all take this attitude, imagine what the world will be like! –Erin Douget 

1. What is your relationship with STAR?10952583_10152577642757595_4145590833588675736_n (1)   (1)

ED: I began volunteering as a hotline advocate in September 2014 and I am also a member of the Prevention Action Coalition, which focuses their attention on the prevention of sexual violence.

2. What led you to get involved with STAR and/or join the movement to end sexual violence?

ED: I experienced an incident of sexual molestation at a young age during a very chaotic time period for myself and my family.  I did not acknowledge this trauma until I was in college. I also remember the moment that I learned many of my friends had experienced some form of sexual violence. This number was incredible to me and made the high statistics of sexual violence a concrete concept.  I knew that the only way for me to turn these horrible memories into forces for good was to get involved with the movement. I hope that sharing my story and encouraging change in society’s perception of sexual violence will enable at least one person suffering in the dark to find hope, healing, and peace.

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3. What do you find most rewarding about your participation in this movement?

ED: The most rewarding aspect is when I am on the hotline with a caller and I hear some form of ease in their voice.  A lot of times, people who call the hotline simply need someone to listen and acknowledge that they are not alone and that they are believed by somebody. If I can get them to realize that they have taken very important steps towards a healthier future, I feel like Superwoman!

4. What motivates you to keep going when things get difficult or discouraging?

ED: Whenever I see an article in the newspaper that features a story about sexual violence or an interview on TV with a survivor, it is just more motivation for me to get out there and try to be a voice that encourages change. I have always been inspired by how much the human spirit can endure, so I think about all the survivors who live in the dark and I remind myself that I can be the momentum they need to step into the light.

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5. What are some simple, day-to-day ways you promote positive change in our community, outside of your work duties?

ED: I promote positive change by having an open and questioning attitude towards anyone who enters my life.  This goes back to the ripple effect.  If I am trying to learn all that I can about this issue and keep a healthy dialogue open in my everyday life, then that may be the jumping off point for someone else.  Similarly, if I exhibit a no-tolerance policy for offensive and unhealthy views, that may inspire another person to examine their own opinions and determine that they must also take a stand.  We really never know just how our attitudes can influence others.

6. What advice would you give to someone who is hesitant about becoming an active member of this movement?

ED: I think that people don’t realize how important any 67action can be towards building a healthy and happy future.  Something as small as telling a friend that they are not alone and recommending healthy steps can do something as significant as saving their life. We have short lives, but we have the ability to make them wide with love and compassion. If we all take this attitude, imagine what the world will be like!

We are all fully human, even offenders

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THE BIG PICTURE

“David Bowie: Time to mourn or call out?

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“We can both remember and forgive as a people. We can hold folks accountable and keep them with us. We can remember, not forgive, and still move forward. We have options… 

It can be difficult and scary and destabilizing to hold the reality of loving someone and/or thinking they’ve done amazing things with the realities of those same people doing horrible things, but that’s how the world is.

-Aida Manduley

Lessons Learned

As sexual violence is increasingly talked about in our society, sexual harm committed by public figures is increasingly a focus of public attention. Over the past year, many people have been challenged to reconcile uncomfortable truths about beloved icons and entertainers with the positive influence, art, and deeds they are also responsible for.

In this month’s featured article, “David Bowie: Time to mourn or call out,” the author discusses the complex feelings many people are dealing with in the wake of David Bowie’s death. Bowie was a man who for decades created art that had an intense, positive impact on millions of people. As an artist, his work was undoubtedly important and valued—and thus, his death is painful for many, many people, not just those who knew him personally. However, Bowie was not just an artist, he was a person—capable of both good and bad, just like everyone else. There are allegations that Bowie committed statutory rape, as well as other forms of sexual assault.

As we all process such allegations for any public figures we look up to, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • All people are multi-faceted, three-dimensional, fully human beings. It is expected that we and the people in our lives are capable of both good and bad qualities and behaviors. This means that people whom we love, cherish, and hold in high esteem—the people who bring joy and meaning into our lives—are also capable of committing harm against us and others.
  • Can you forgive someone who has committed acts of violence? Can you still like them or enjoy their contributions? It’s up to you. If someone has done something objectively wrong, and you no longer care for that person or have to set firm boundaries with them—that’s okay. If you still like them or have high regard for them—that’s okay too. However, there is one caveat: regardless of our personal feelings for someone and the positive ways they have impacted our lives, it is always our responsibility to acknowledge and hold them accountable for their wrongdoings.
  • Like minimizing or denying abuse, labeling a sexual offender as a “monster” or as evil is ultimately harmful.* When we do this, it prevents us from being able to identify the harmful behaviors of those we love—and of ourselves—as warning signs of sexual abuse. The more we hold offenders accountable for their behavior while continuing to see them as three-dimensional people, the closer we are to a community free from sexual trauma.

*Survivors may perceive their offenders as monsters or as bad/evil, and this can be a necessary part of recognizing the violence committed by their offender and setting boundaries with them. This is a normal and valid response. When we critique the practice of labeling offenders as monsters, we are speaking generally to community responses, not to individual survivors’ experiences and responses.


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Fun and Inviting! Tales of sexual harassment in the service industry

This month, we are exploring The Intersection between gender and economic oppression in the service industry. This essay is authored by Kaeli Egler, a STAR Volunteer, Agent of Change, and Fall 2015 intern in our Social Change program. Kaeli also wrote this month’s Pro(Social) Tips: Treating service industry workers like people.

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As a 4th grader, I remember my mother coming home from work crying. I knew she didn’t like her job because her co-workers were mean to her and that she stayed because my father was a full-time student, finishing his last year of college. We were living off her service industry salary and tips. For me, that meant frozen pizza for dinner—but also free desserts that she often snuck home to me. For my parents, it meant constant grappling with finances and my mother’s well-being. Even at the young age of 10, I understood she was crying to my father because her boss pushed her in the freezer. Or, other days she would talk about a coworker who repeatedly cornered her and flashed his genitals.

Her story has a relatively happy ending. After a few months, she found a new job that, while still service-based, was in a safer environment where she made friends and good money. She wasn’t crying every night anymore. Her experiences have stayed with my family after 12 years, though—my parents say they never wanted me to work in a restaurant, and I can’t really blame them.

The reality is, though, that it is hard for a young woman with no degree and a chaotic schedule to support herself on anything but a job in the service industry—they are in large supply, after all.  So here I am, finishing my last days in the service industry after 7 years of struggle, finally taking an in-depth look at the silenced voices that we see and use every day. While interning at STAR this past semester, I became interested in researching sexual harassment in the service industry. I looked into the issue on a national level and also conducted interviews with local service industry workers to get their perspectives.

What I found is that, unfortunately, most women don’t escape the underbelly of the service industry so quickly. Employee turnover is high, in large part due to the prevalence of sexual violence. However, most women can only afford to switch to a different business in the same industry, hoping for a fresh start, or to put up with things the way they are, rather than leaving the industry altogether. As Olivia* explains,

“There was no winning. On the days I wore a skirt because the manager said I needed to ‘put it out more’ the kitchen guys would ask me all these weird questions about how many guys I’ve slept with and like if I’ve done anal because I looked like an ‘anal-kinda-girl.’ I was like, ‘WHAT?!’ They got grabby after a while until one day I cried and they stopped talking to me all together…. I wanted to cry a lot out of frustration. I only lasted five months until I found a new job and quit.”

The reality is that most restaurants and bars are no safer than the other when looking at them through the lens of sexual harassment. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the service industry is the largest source of sexual harassment claims, followed by the entertainment business. According to a recent report, 90% of female restaurant workers have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, and more than 50% of women experience sexual harassment routinely—a rate five times higher than the general female work force.

So what is sexual harassment? The term sexual harassment originates from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it “an unlawful employment practice for an employer…to discriminate against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

Because sexual harassment is disproportionately committed against women, women in the service industry are subjected to particularly and discriminatorily hostile or abusive work environments. As Cecelia states,

“Inappropriate comments are the tip of the iceberg of things being thrown at you on shift constantly, so it starts to feel normal. It gets so tiring defending yourself all the time, so it becomes just another part of the job. Looking back it was like I sold my soul and I was too embarrassed to tell anyone.”

Olivia adds:

“I think all women have been sexually harassed, objectified, or assaulted at some point in their work, even if they don’t realize it at first. I look back at what customers said to me, and I’m like, whoa, that was really inappropriate and not okay. I can’t imagine speaking to another person like that.”

When a workplace is infused with “discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult,” that is “sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment,” Title VII is violated and there is a case for sexual harassment.

To clarify, one unwanted sexual comment isn’t sufficient to comprise sexual harassment under the law. Conduct that does not create an environment that a reasonable person** would find hostile or abusive is beyond Title VII’s scope. But Title VII does offer protection to workers before the hostile environment has seriously affected an employees’ psychological well-being, including by detracting from employees’ job performance, discouraging employees from remaining on the job, or keeping them from advancing in their careers. Such hostile work environments are not good for employees and employers alike.

Beyond the legal definition of sexual harassment, sexual harassment can practically be understood as a range of sexual or sexualized behaviors that are experienced as intimidating or uncomfortable, including but not limited to:

  • Unwelcome sexual attention, questions, teasing, or remarks
  • Violations of personal space
  • Showing of lewd photographs
  • Pressuring for dates

Olivia brought up one particular example of unwelcome sexual attention that she witnessed, and which was corroborated by the employee mentioned here:

“The owner called my manager by women’s names all the time as a negative comment on his sexuality. When he was mad at him, he wouldn’t critique him or explain what he did wrong- he would just start hurling insults his way about him being homosexual, saying all these really derogatory comments for everyone to hear about what he must have done last night with his boyfriends to be so lazy today.”

This employee endured such harassment over the span of a year before he quit. In this example, we see that sexual harassment is not necessarily sexually motivated, but rather is motivated by a desire to assert power and control over another with abusive, demeaning, and/or violating actions. And, even when sexual harassment is committed against men, it is often done in a way that punishes men for deviating from masculine gender norms.

 

The Sexual Violence Continuum

The forms of sexual harassment previously mentioned often go hand-in-hand with other forms of sexual violence, including sexual battery (i.e. unwanted touching or grabbing) and obscenity (i.e. indecent exposure). And like all other forms of sexual violence, sexual harassment is a violation of sexual boundaries; it is nonconsensual, unwelcome sexual behavior.

Also, as with any form of sexual violence, it can cause trauma. The traumatic, toxic stress manufactured by sexual harassment can result in:

  • Mental and physical health impacts (e.g. depression, anxiety, lowered self-worth, insomnia, high blood pressure, and gastrointestinal disorders);
  • Behavioral health impacts (e.g. substance abuse);
  • Economic costs (e.g. costs of changing jobs, schools or residence, or associated health care costs);
  • Social costs (e.g. increased stress in interpersonal relationships)

Jean, a service industry worker for years, describes the mental and physical health impacts she experienced from harassment:

“I was concerned every night with what was going to happen. I had anxiety about not being able to get people to stop yelling at or heckling me. That enough wouldn’t be enough for them and I wouldn’t be able to stop it. I called in sick a few times just from feeling so nauseous and overwhelmed [about it].”

Sexual harassment has real health consequences for the people who experience it; it can also function as a trigger for those who have previously experienced sexual abuse. As Tina explains,

“[Sexual harassment] brings up all these bad memories that I can’t afford to deal with in the middle of a rush at work. So when I see my coworkers getting harassed, I’ll intervene for them if they don’t feel comfortable intervening because it makes me so uncomfortable, I need it to end—even if that means I’m making their drinks or serving their table on top of my own.”

 

Who-What-When-Where-How?

The very highest rates of sexual harassment are experienced by women, in tipped occupations, in states where the sub-minimum wage is $2.13 per hour (i.e. Louisiana waitresses and bartenders!). The vast majority of women and men (79% and 77%, respectively) reporting sexual harassment on the job pointed to coworkers or clients without supervisory authority over them as the prominent culprits. Jean notes:

“Pretty regularly I’d have people call me out of my name or hit on me unwelcomely—someone will say ‘You’ve got a nice ass.’ and I will tell them ‘That’s inappropriate.’ and he will just respond by saying ‘So, I don’t care.’—which is frustrating. I try to shut it down by getting really defensive or angry to show I’m not playing around. I think that’s common and I think most management doesn’t accept that harassment excessively. The line gets fuzzier though when you start working with nightlife.”

Multiple interviewees noted that restaurant and bar industry management are more likely to look the other way at sexual harassment from customers to create a “fun” and “inviting” atmosphere for a specific type of patron. Management is also more likely to harass employees in this environment to encourage them to act or dress a certain way to appeal to customers. In Cecilia’s experience, “I’ve see lot of management styles that assume the crazier their customers can be, the better business gets. They sell it to lower level employees as the better tips they get. My biggest tip, better than any tip a customer can leave on the tab, would be to get away from it as fast as you can.”

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Workplace Sexual Objectification

Interviewees also talked about being objectified and sexualized through sex-specific standards for behavior and appearance when interacting with customers. Olivia says:

“Girls have more demands on their attire. Guys wear a button down and slacks and they’re good…Girls are expected to have a tight outfit, make-up on, hair done, the works. We have to create and be a fantasy. If we don’t dress like that, [management will] give back-handed comments throughout the night, ask another bartender to say something, or just stop scheduling you—all really indirect.”

Laila stated that one local sports bar “won’t carry uniforms past a size 8 as a way of managing girls’ appearances. If you can’t fit the uniform, you can’t waitress. When it starts getting a little too tight in all the wrong places—they’ll start getting weird about what you eat on shift.” Cecelia adds:

“I’ve bartended for 10 years and they wouldn’t let me bartend. They almost didn’t give me a job. The only reason I was ever a door girl is because I’m too ‘big’ for them, but I knew the industry…they told me I could do bar if I lost weight, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen…So I was placed at the door and they’d let the skinny, never-bartended-a day-in-her-life girl work at the counter. I’ve managed a bar, but I couldn’t bartend because of my weight.”

It’s not just men in management positions who reinforce these expectations, either. Women in these positions play the game, too, as Tina explains:

“When misogyny and discrimination came from where I wouldn’t expect, the people that are supposed to have my back, is when it hurt the most…One of the female managers would demand better and more make-up and really done up hair. “Pull your shirt lower,” she would yell at me every night, just because she was comfortable with doing that. She felt like it was okay because she was a woman, but it’s really like throwing gas on the fire.”

For many bars and restaurants, their business model is one of catering to a certain type of man who enjoys the women being presented primarily as sexual objects at their service. This hyper-masculinized industry that caters to this kind of customer has seen 30% growth in recent years in the forms of sports bars and restaurants, despite the fact that women are fully human beings, not objects that exist for someone else’s sexual pleasure. Amanda says,

“This in front of you is who I am, I’m not anything like those outfits that I’m required to wear on a Friday night…I dress like that because the owner sat me down one night and told me that people pay a lot of money to come in here and buy our services…so I need to look like I’m worth a lot of money. I didn’t know how to argue [with what he said].”

 

Barriers to Reporting

With laws in place and no shortage of an affected population (the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the service sector serves as the main source of employment with numbers projected to reach 131.1 million in 2018), why is this problem still so underreported?

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Employees that do seek action against sexual harassment often run into barriers to reporting that can leave them defeated, underpaid, or unemployed due to issues ranging from incomprehensible paper work to lack of support from management in filing charges against a patron. There is no short supply of employee narratives about deciding to part ways with a position because they have no other option.

This leaves the individual employee in question looking difficult to manage and unreliable in the long-term, yet these problems are in large part due to an overwhelming failure of the service industry to regulate reporting strategies, implement behavioral standards, and normalize livable hourly wages.

By and large, many businesses still haven’t made it a priority to protect their workers from sexual harassment; it’s often considered a normal occupational hazard. There is no standard of how to report, who to report to, and what should be reported. Management may leave the issue of sexual harassment to be handled by a chapter in an outdated employee training manual—never to be discussed or contemplated again.

In this context, allegations often aren’t made because workers fear retaliation, are uncertain their claims will be taken seriously, or are unaware of their rights.

Another interviewee, Cecelia, explained:

“I had a superior tell me to sex up my attitude and dress for a big party next shift, then when I come in and he’s hitting on me, asking if I’ll swipe right if I see him on Tinder. Next thing I know, he grabs my ass mid-shift. I yell at him and he’s just like, ‘Eh,’ stumbling away, drunk. He kept asking what it would take for him to get to have sex with me. By the end of the night, I was let go for a bad attitude. Really, what happened was the owner just didn’t know how to handle the situation and I was the newer employee.”

 

The Economics of Harassment

From the interviews, financial dependence on tipped work emerged as the primary reason for choosing to be employed and staying in a sexually objectifying environment, given the often higher pay. However, the real financial rewards from tips are also a breeding ground for disempowerment, as it creates an imbalance of power and limits the ability of a service provider to object to unwanted comments or contact from customers in fear of putting their source of living in jeopardy. This is especially true in contexts where owners or managers don’t have systems in place to proactively hold customers accountable for sexually harassing employees, and to protect and empower their workers against sexual harassment.

The subminimum wage, the fact that the majority of people living off tips are women, and the reality that take-home pay is inextricably linked to enduring any and all behavior from customers, co-workers, and bosses are all factors that make sexual harassment so prevalent an experience among women engaging in tipped work.

This is solidified when management allows customers to treat servers inappropriately by being unresponsive or even indulgent of sexually harassing behavior. This dynamic is demonstrated by a research study comparison of the experiences of tipped women workers with those of non-tipped women workers. In tipped occupations, it becomes difficult for workers to effectively draw lines between providing good service and tolerating inappropriate behavior from customers. As Jean notes,

“Tips are definitely involved with the pervasiveness [of sexual harassment]. We let ourselves be objectified and harassed for tips, and we self-objectify, which is really like mental prostitution. It’s hard, I want to encourage everyone to fight back…I really want to believe if you do your job, people will tip you based on how you did your job—not how well you put your chest in their face.”

Beyond the dependence on tips, a culture of sexism and sexual objectification of women has implications for who can advance to higher positions. In Jean’s experience,

“People that should have never become managers will become my boss because of what they have between their legs. The owners of the bar won’t consider having a male bartender either because they just want tits and ass behind the bar on display. They see it as men run the bar, women serve the bar.”

Over 50% of tipped women workers agreed that depending on tips had led them to tolerate inappropriate behaviors that made them nervous or uncomfortable. Follow-up research found that over a third of the women (34%) who were formerly tipped workers, within the last year, quit their jobs as a result of encountering unwanted sexual behavior in the restaurant workplace.

 

Where do we go from here?

Listening to the people I interviewed about their experiences of sexual harassment in the service industry made it clear that cultures of sexual harassment are not “fun” and “inviting” at all, except for people who like to violate others’ sexual boundaries—you know, sex offenders. “Violating,” “disempowering,” “dehumanizing,” and “traumatizing” are more appropriate descriptors of these environments. This industry’s widespread tolerance of sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence must be changed.

Seeking to abide by the law is a start, but truly taking into account the real-life impacts of sexual harassment is key. Then, addressing the environmental and institutional practices that allow such behaviors to continue is what it will take to change things for the better. Simply holding the expectation that customers refrain from sexually harassing staff would be a good start.

The best ways we can individually act to reduce the prevalence of sexual violence, including sexual harassment, are to:

  • Assert people’s right to have their sexual boundaries respected;
  • Affirm people’s dignity and worth, including people who work in the service industry; and
  • Refrain from committing sexual harassment or other abuses of power.

The simplest ways we can act institutionally to reduce the prevalence of sexual violence is to open one’s eyes to staff experiences of sexual harassment and enact policy and practice that make tolerance of sexually harassing behaviors a relic of the past.

Other considerations include:

  • Eliminating the subminimum wage for tipped workers to increase financial security and take away many of the pressures that perpetuate high rates of sexual harassment in the restaurant industry;
  • Strengthening anti-sexual harassment enforcement efforts;
  • Requiring restaurant employers to institute written policies and verbal trainings on sexual harassment; and
  • Establishing worker-led and worksite-based enforcement of sexual harassment policy through an advocate.

Stakeholders in the service industry must care to make such small and large changes, but it is possible to protect workers from sexual harassment and make workplaces safer and more equitable for all. Doing so would lead to better experiences for staff, management, owners, and yes, even customers—at least, you know, those customers who are cool with respecting people and their sexual boundaries. Everyone wins!—except sex offenders and their rapey friends. Cool? Cool.

 

*All names have been changed.

**Because sexual violence is disproportionately committed against women, women often have a different standard from men of what a “reasonable person” would consider threatening behavior. This standard, though different from most men’s, is reasonable and valid.

 

Have something to say? We’d like to hear from you. Email prevention@star.ngo with your thoughts, or to learn about taking action for the prevention of sexual violence.

Agents of Change: Stefanie Hanley

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There are many people in our community working to create positive change to end sexual violence. We want to meet as many of them as possible. If you would like to submit a recommendation, please email prevention@brstar.org.

Being active means being educated on the injustices that victims face every day. Educating the community is the only way that we can change the way the world views sexual violence.                               -Stefanie Hanley

1. What is your relationship with STAR? 

SH: I am a volunteer advocate for STAR in Baton Rouge. I completed my advocate training in September of this year. I am seeking a degree from Western Kentucky University in Sociology with a concentration in Family, Gender, and Sexuality. I want to focus my career on helping survivors of sexual trauma, and STAR has been a great way for me to get involved in the movement to end sexual violence. IMG_0093[1]

2. What led you to get involved with STAR and/or join the movement to end sexual violence?

SH: When I was eight years old, I was molested by an employee at the daycare center I attended. Child sexual abuse was a hot topic in the 1980s, and I remember my mother asking me if anything “unusual” had happened to me. I told her no. I didn’t remember the experience until I was an adult, shortly after my son was born in 1994. Even then I didn’t tell anyone. It wasn’t until much later that I sought counseling to deal with my trauma and realized that that experience as a child had affected every part of my life. I was doing research on the RAINN website one day for resources for survivors, and there was a link with information about volunteering. I got involved with STAR because I felt a need to share my experience with and help other survivors of sexual trauma.

3. What do you find most rewarding about your participation in this movement?

SH: Working with STAR has allowed me to meet people from many different backgrounds. It has been rewarding to see how committed everyone is to the organization and educating others on the epidemic of sexual trauma. I have had the opportunity to represent STAR at a few community events, and it is encouraging to me when people stop and ask for information or say thanks for the work that we do.

4. What motivates you to keep going when things get difficult or discouraging?

22053_103615972993246_188053_nSH: I am motivated because this is what I want to do. I feel that all the experiences I’ve had have led me to this point and that this work is what I was meant to do. The feelings of satisfaction and confidence I have gained since starting this journey are invaluable to me.

5. What are some simple, day-to-day ways you promote positive change in our community? 

SH: My training at STAR has completely changed the way I look at the world. I’m constantly pointing out instances of victim-blaming to friends and coworkers. I’m more aware of occurrences of discrimination and racism that I see on a daily basis. I have continued to expand my knowledge of sexual assault and share that with others.

6. What advice would you give to someone who is hesitant about becoming an active member of this movement? 

SH: I understand why some people are hesitant to get involved. Sexual assault and trauma are something that no one seems to want to talk about. Sexual violence can happen to anyone: your mother, your sister, your child. Supporting survivors is important not only to the people who have already been affected, but also for future victims who are afraid to report their assault. Being active means being educated on the injustices that victims face every day. Educating the community is the only way that we can change the way the world views sexual violence.

 

Interested in becoming a STAR volunteer? We are currently recruiting volunteers for our Baton Rouge and New Orleans branches. Learn more on our website!

How can we compete? The competitive sports industry vs. the violence prevention movement

Photo source: USA Today

Recently, highly publicized media stories have shed light on violence perpetrated by star athletes such as Floyd Mayweather, Ray Rice and Darren Sharper, and the institutions that continue to compromise their achievements and on-field tenacity for the ongoing threat they pose to their families and our communities. These institutions, such as the NFL and WBA, continue to overlook, avoid and deny how these athletes’ predatory and anti-social behavior further perpetuates a culture where we glorify and reward violent behavior.

In a cnn.com opinion piece, Why do we ignore Mayweather’s domestic abuse?,” the author writes, “Mayweather has had at least seven assaults against five women that resulted in arrest or citations in addition to other episodes in which the police were called but no charges filed.” Furthermore, despite Mayweather’s documented history of domestic violence, there is no mention of any accountability or responsibility. In fact, sports blog Deadspin alleges that there may even be an attempt to cover-up Mayweather’s crimes by destroying or hiding photo evidence of his assaults, which is convenient since Mayweather explains his innocence by repeatedly stating that there are “no pictures.”

In the New York Post article,The $45 billion reason the NFL ignores despicable behavior, the author writes: “the rewards are so immense that the risks, be they domestic abuse or the players’ debilitating concussions, seem to be an after-thought.”

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It’s true. The average NFL franchise is currently worth $1.4 billion, and collectively the league’s teams have a market value of $45 billion. These institutions objectify athletes as commodities that are indispensable when an asset, and expendable when a liability. Off-the-field violence and dominance rarely renders them as liabilities in the context of a culture that is all too happy to justify, rationalize, and ignore such violence. In this context, accepting and downplaying their transgressions is simply good business.

Last fall, after the mass outcry about the NFL’s systematic evasion of players’ off-field violence, the NFL announced that the organization plans to enter a partnership with the National Domestic Violence Hotline, National Sexual Violence Resource Center, and loveisrespect to provide “millions of dollars in funding” and opportunities for education to their football players. The NFL also aired an anti-domestic violence commercial during the Super Bowl in February.

That’s a starting point, but in no way a solution.

The timely Amy Schumer comedic parody Football Town Nights illustrates how in the same breath we both glorify and condemn violence. Throughout the sketch, the new coach in town sets a new rule of “no raping,” and attempts to educate the team members about what constitutes rape and that men must take “no” for an answer. Then, in the final scene, when the team is losing the Friday night game, the coach explodes with passion stating, “Football is about violently dominating anyone that stands between you and what you want!” The invigorated team rushes out of the locker room after the coach’s call to action, with the mixed messages lingering in audience members’ minds.

Most people involved in organized sports are not perpetrators; however, there are predatory and anti-social behaviors that perpetrators display and it is our responsibility as institutions, organizations and community members to hold individuals responsible and accountable. Furthermore, we have to acknowledge how the messages are not as mixed as we’d like to think, and that institutional practices show us quite clearly that this behavior is considered acceptable.

It is possible to be successfully competitive without being an abusive bully and perpetrator of violence, and this needs to be the expectation held by athletic institutions and their members.

We have to acknowledge that actions speak louder than words and PR, and that institutional sanctions and rewards will play an enormous role in whether we continue to tolerate criminal and abusive violence, or whether we begin to hold offenders accountable for their antisocial treatment of others.  At this moment, we have made the first choice: we prefer to profit off of them at the expense of the millions of individuals and families traumatized and adversely affected by family violence, intimate partner violence and sexual violence.

The Mayweather v. Pacquiano fight in early May was billed as the “Fight of the Century” that earned hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. The NFL and their teams are collectively worth billions. College athletics generate billions of dollars in revenue each year.

In contrast, the Office of Violence Against Women allocates $600 million annually through its grant programs to address violence against women by funding courts, law enforcement, prosecutor’s offices, state coalitions, and domestic violence and sexual assault centers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a Rape Prevention Education (RPE) Program that provides $42 million each year to sexual assault coalitions and centers to provide sexual violence prevention education.

How can we compete on this uneven playing field?

It’s encouraging that institutions like the NFL are beginning to respond to those who collectively seek to hold them accountable, but for these responses to be meaningful and make positive impacts, the NFL must begin holding themselves accountable for holding offenders accountable. In the simplest terms? Institutions must put their money where their mouth is.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month spotlights campus sexual violence

Safer campuses. Brighter futures. Prevent sexual assault.

That’s what the National Sexual Violence Resource Center is asking of our nation this April.

The U.S. first recognized April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in 2001. Since then, NSVRC and other sexual violence organizations have hosted campaigns each April to spread awareness about sexual trauma and to promote prevention of sexual assault. Each campaign usually has a specific focus within the spectrum of sexual violence.

This year, Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaigns are highlighting the epidemic of campus sexual assault and the growing need to improve university practices regarding this issue.SAAM Poster

Many high profile cases of campus sexual assaults, such as those involving University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University, have spurred the White House to begin the It’s On Us campaign. This national campaign identifies that the responsibility of preventing sexual violence lies with all of us—not just sexual assault organizations like STAR.

These high profile cases have also inspired the making of The Hunting Ground, an in-depth documentary that explores the prevalence of sexual assault on campuses and the lack of support that survivors receive from their universities and communities. The Hunting Ground, which has gained many high accolades since its release in February, exposes the dark realities of this issue without apology.

The Hunting Ground Poster

STAR, along with LAFASA, LSU Women’s Center, LSU Student Government, and LSU Lighthouse Program, will be hosting a free screening of The Hunting Ground on LSU’s campus on Tuesday, April 21 at 6 p.m. A discussion panel will also take place immediately following the film. This event will provide an opportunity for the Baton Rouge community to learn about campus sexual assault and to engage in a dialogue about how to prevent sexual violence from occurring on and off our campuses.

Other SAAM events will take place in Baton Rouge through the end of April, such as Shine the Light on April 27.

Hold your breath: Refusal to report sexual violence isn’t just about stigma

Antigravity Magazine published the following essay in January 2015. The essay’s author, Ann Glaviano, is a New Orleans copy editor and grant writer. We at STAR thank Ann Glaviano for authoring this piece and Antigravity Magazine for publishing it.

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I spent my first six months of graduate school being stalked and sexually harassed, verbally and physically, by another student. I didn’t tell anyone—at all—about the situation at first. I had just moved to a new city, surrounded by people I didn’t know well, and I didn’t want to draw negative attention to myself. I didn’t want to seem dramatic. I was embarrassed. I thought it was my fault. I thought I had somehow confused this guy. I thought I could handle it on my own.

You’ve heard this before, right? You probably already know that the majority of sexual assaults aren’t reported.

And you’re probably familiar with the common reasons why someone who has been sexually assaulted wouldn’t report it: humiliation, self-blame, a desire—after such an invasive experience—for privacy. You might even be aware that 80% of women who have been raped or sexually assaulted knew their attacker. You might understand that these women keep silent for fear of social repercussions.

Slate writer Emily Yoffe knows these stats well, and she demonstrates as much in her recent piece “The College Rape Overcorrection,” a twelve-thousand-word response to the Rolling Stone article “A Rape on Campus,” both of which blew up on social media late last year. Yoffe asserts, “Respecting the feelings of victims is important, and crucial to encouraging more women to report violence. But elevating the psychological comfort of victims over society’s need to punish criminals will only let perpetrators go free.” I am struck by her choice of words here, by her evident concern that some ill-advised people—presumably the victims themselves—are valuing the “psychological comfort” of a select few over the greater need of “society.” For all of her research on the subject, it seems that Yoffe isn’t aware of—or seeks to minimize—the fact that there’s another very common reason women who have been sexually assaulted don’t report: because they believe it is unsafe.

A December 2014 Department of Justice report notes that one in five women who elected not to report rape or sexual assault say they feared reprisal. Many women who opt not to report sexual violence—including stalking and sexual harassment—do so because they fear that the violence will escalate as a result. This decision, then, is not motivated by an interest in “comfort” but in both physical and psychological safety, or at least an effort to choose the least dangerous course of action.

But if women are afraid of escalating violence, can’t they just go get a restraining order? Sure. Restraining orders, or orders of protection, are intended to require someone to stop doing things you don’t want them to do, like beat you, harass you, stalk you, or sexually assault you. There are criminal penalties to pay as a disincentive for breaching these orders. And, sometimes, orders of protection work.

And, sometimes, obtaining or even just pursuing an order of protection escalates an already violent situation. An order of protection is a piece of paper. Advocates for victims of sexual violence concede that it can’t protect you from harassing phone calls, psychological abuse, or physical assaults. If someone wants to kill you, a restraining order is not going to save you. Stalkers are particularly unresponsive to those pieces of paper; over 60% will reengage in stalking behavior despite interventions, arrests, and orders of protection. Because of these risks, advocates say, the person best positioned to determine whether authorities should attempt to intervene in or moderate the sexual violence that is inflicted upon you is not a local cop, not a judge, not a university administrator, and not Emily Yoffe. The person best positioned to make that call is you.

I should note that there is a distinction between reporting sexual violence to friends, parents, significant others, professors, administrators, etc., and the reporting that sets the so-called wheels of justice in motion. The first kind of reporting can and often does happen without the second ever occurring. After a couple months of being stalked and harassed, I realized that I should let a few trusted classmates know what was going on, in case I ever needed an escort or someone to help me de-escalate a situation and I didn’t have time to explain the whole story on the spot. These classmates were, without exception, supportive.

The harassment and stalking continued. I took to hiding in the bathroom after a class we had together in a building on the edge of campus—a class he’d scheduled because he knew I was taking it. I would stand in the bathroom and wait and hope that he would walk away rather than do what he usually did, which was follow me out of the building and all the way across campus. After six long months—at which point I finally realized that nothing I said to him would keep him from harassing me and that I was flat-out too exhausted to go on like that anymore—I met with the university advocate who dealt with incidents of stalking and sexual violence. I separately, finally, alerted a professor I trusted as to what was going on, and she let the other professors in our department know too.

The advocate strongly encouraged me to file a report—she told me that she was actually supposed to get the paperwork going just by virtue of the fact that I’d reported the activity to her. But, she said, I could take some time to decide if I wanted to make the report official. Because once the official report was triggered, it meant that the man who had been terrorizing me for six months would be alerted to the fact that he’d been reported. Not only would he know that he’d been reported—he would know that I had reported him.

This is someone who had come to my house at 2:30 a.m. and pounded on the door while calling and texting me nonstop for half an hour. (Why didn’t I call the police? I thought maybe I’d be overreacting. I thought it was my fault. More than anything, I now wish that I had called the cops on him that night.) I knew this man had a violent past, that he was arrogant, and that his position as a graduate student in this program mattered a great deal to him. I knew that if I reported him, I was threatening that position. When I initiated the conversation with the advocate—before I even made a decision regarding the official report—I spent two weeks terrified that I would find him waiting at my door. The university states that, similar to an order of protection, they have a zero-tolerance policy for retaliation after reports of sexual violence. That assurance meant nothing to me. A “zero-tolerance policy” for retaliation doesn’t protect me from retaliation. It doesn’t guard my front door, it doesn’t walk with me across campus, it doesn’t watch me after I leave a late-night MFA reading and walk back to my car.

But I was prepared to report him. I went to the final meeting with a professor who had offered to accompany me (the professors were, without exception, supportive) and I didn’t cry the entire time—until it came time at the end to say yes, let’s file the paperwork. I started sobbing, and I told the advocate that if I had to report him so he wouldn’t do this to anyone else, I would do it, but I was scared. And my professor put a screeching halt to the meeting. She told me I didn’t have to enter into any official process, and at this point she would advise me against it.

So I didn’t report him. Not for my “psychological comfort” but because I believed that it would put me at risk of bodily harm. I didn’t report him, he eventually stopped stalking and harassing me, and I have been told that he went on to terrorize at least three other women—two on our campus and one at his PhD program. I imagine he started long before he met me and will continue long after. For now, he gets to do it from the stance of a PhD student who instructs undergraduates. Maybe later he’ll get to do it as a professor. And I am accountable because I didn’t report him.

But let’s not pretend that decisions like mine are motivated by a self-indulgent desire for “psychological comfort.” Because that’s fucking insulting. These decisions are about safety and the inability of our existing structures— within and outside the university—to offer it. This failure cannot be overstated, least of all in the city of New Orleans, where in November a probe by the city’s inspector general revealed that five of the eight NOPD detectives assigned to investigate sex crimes didn’t even bother to investigate 86% of requests for police assistance from 2011 to 2013.

The women who don’t report sexual violence—and remember, the number of women who don’t report is “most of them”—are not delinquent or negligent in some responsibility to the greater good. In not reporting, these women are taking action; they are enacting refusal. I didn’t report the man who stalked and harassed me because, in my rational assessment of the existing threat, the university’s investigatory and judicial processes, the likelihood of retaliation, and the protections offered, I reasoned that I would be safer crossing my fingers and hoping for the best than seeking recourse from the police or the university. In our city, and in every city, women are physically and psychologically terrorized on a daily basis. And the systems currently in place that claim to protect women are so ineffective—the risks of participation are so great—that a majority of women are opting out of them.

Veterans Day: Recognize military sexual assault

Veterans Day is a national holiday to honor the United States armed forces. During this day, many pay tribute to those who have died or have been injured due to their service. However, we often ignore the impacts of sexual trauma within the military.

Here’s a few facts to help present the magnitude of this issue:

  1. According to the Pentagon, 38 military men are sexually assaulted every single day.
  2. The moment a man enlists in the United States armed forces, his chances of being sexually assaulted increase tenfold.
  3. Although women are much more likely to be victims of military sexual trauma (MST), far fewer of them enlist.
  4. Nearly 14,000 military men were sexually assaulted in 2012.
  5. Prior to the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2011, male-on-male-rape victims could actually be discharged for having engaged in homosexual conduct.
  6. Men develop PTSD from sexual assault at nearly twice the rate they do from combat.

We know that many civilian rapes go unreported. The same happens within the military. Society’s construction of gender roles and stereotypes contributes to this problem.

Men—especially soldiers, marines and airmen—are expected to be strong, aggressive and dominant. Their “masculinity” is usually equated to their sexual prowess and activity. With these combined expectations, it can be difficult for male survivors to report their assaults.

Unfortunately, when sexual assault goes unreported, offenders go unpunished. This allows a cycle to continue unnoticed, ignored and even encouraged. Although the armed forces has made improvements in its culture, policies and practices, it still requires more work–and so do we.

We need to recognize that men and those serving in the armed forced are fully human, have an array of characteristics and traits, and are at risk of experiencing sexual trauma.

Believe and support sexual assault survivors—male or female, civilian or veteran.

For more information about this issue, refer to the U.S. SAPRO and/or human rights organization, Protect Our Defenders.

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STAR’s tips and tricks for the Halloween season

Halloween is the undoubtedly the best holiday of the year! Here at STAR, we know a few ways to make it even better!

Celebrate responsibly (and respectfully)

Magic is in the air! Halloween isn’t just for the kiddos; we adults get an excuse to party too. As we all know, many adult gatherings include alcohol—society’s go-to social lubricant. So, remember to drink responsibly: don’t drive drunk, don’t damage your friend’s property, don’t puke all over your awesome costume—but most importantly, don’t sexually assault someone. Sex requires conscious, enthusiastic consent from both parties, and sometimes people can be too drunk to consent. Make sure the magic is wanted before you make a move.

Poster - Drunk YetPoster - Alcohol Doesn't Equal Foreplay

Care for your neighbor

Speaking of consent, make sure to keep an eye out for your peers. We’ve all heard the mantra before: “if you see something, say something.” But as we come to recognize the culture in our society, this message carries a heavier weight. As stated in the new Obama administration campaign #ItsOnUs, we are all responsible for challenging negative attitudes, beliefs, words and actions and for promoting positive behaviors. Although this particular campaign is targeted toward college campuses, it relates to the entire community. Be mindful of yourself, but also take time to care for others.

Costumes are not invitations

Halloween is the time of year where the wacky and weird are welcome. It is typical to see Halloween costumes that stray from the day-to-day norm, and sometimes different can be downright sexy. But keep in mind, a person cannot consent, welcome or invite anyone or anything with his/her clothes. Clothes are cool and all, but they can’t talk.

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Costumes are not tools for exploitation

While dressing in costume is an avenue to explore and express yourself, there is no good reason to exploit or offend someone in the process. Two types of Halloween costumes to avoid: those that may sexually exploit children and those that glorify violence and oppression.

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Communicate with your children

Adults spend a lot of time teaching children how to be safe when trick-or-treating. They explain which candies should be eaten or thrown away. But the conversation shouldn’t just be about the treats—we need to talk about treatment too. Make sure to educate yourself and others about child sexual abuse, and to educate children in your care about the difference between healthy/appropriate and unhealthy/abusive interactions and relationships.

CSA Stats

Follow these steps, and you’re sure to have a wickedly wonderful Halloween!