Bill Cosby and Triggers

Bill Cosby & Triggers

As someone who is actively engaged with the online community surrounding sexual assault awareness, I am constantly surrounded by news stories on the topic. That means that for the past few months– and especially the past week– my various news feeds have been bombarded with stories about Bill Cosby.

I want to start out by saying how much my heart is going out to all of the survivors who have spoken up against Bill Cosby and to the survivors who have chosen to not go public. My heart is full of support for these individuals and their loved ones, and full of anger towards the justice system that has repeatedly failed them, the media and individuals who have shamed and silenced them, and their assailant. There has been a lot of good, survivor-supporting press on the topic– to view some of that, click here, here, or here.

Each and every time I hear the name “Bill Cosby,” an overwhelming sense of anxiety and fear overtakes my mind and body. And I actually feel badly about my reaction– I should feel content with the fact that this is getting so much press coverage. I should feel all of that anger and disgust towards this man, but not fear or anxiety– after all, he is not my assailant. He does not know me. Statistically speaking, I will never, ever encounter this man.

But then I realized that I might not be the only one feeling this way, and I considered what I would tell someone who came to me with the same thoughts. Your triggers, your thoughts, and your experience is valid. It is yours. If you need to turn off the TV when a news story comes on or avoid specific articles on Twitter, that is okay. If you need to take a step away from a conversation surrounding current events or have a cry or talk though your feelings with a friends, that is okay. Allow yourself to feel and process and take care of yourself in whatever ways you need to. You deserve to feel safe.

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To The Man In The Suit

To the man who told me yesterday that there needed to be less of me,
that I needed to take up less space with the cells making up my skin and my nose and my stomach and my body,
that I needed to consume less to combat the dreaded f-word, the fat word,
I say no.

These are my arms,
my mother’s arms, my grandmother’s arms– strong and proud and glorious–
meant for lifting up others and doing our own damn housework and holding beautiful babies, should we choose to embrace motherhood.

These are my legs,
my father’s legs, my grandfather’s legs– tall and full and solid–
meant for rooting into the ground when the world grows weary and standing up for our beliefs and for holding us up through laborious journeys.

This is my stomach,
the embodiment of the women who have come before me– soft and changing and occasionally a battleground–
meant for taking in the energy that sustains my strength and for deep belly laughs and one day, not now or soon but one day, holding a child.

Sir, this is my body. I could name every part and tell you about its lineage and its purpose. But this body is mine. And that is reason enough to love it.

So, no. I will not take up less space for your eyes and plastic soul.
This is my body.
Not yours.

I Need Trigger Warnings: A Response to Skidmore News

trigger warnings

Each day since the horrifying Skidmore News article was released deeming trigger warnings as unnecessary and “intellectually lazy,” I have sat down and attempted to write a response letter to the editorial board. But, each time, I cannot get past the first paragraph without letting my anger get the best of me and needing to take a step back.

I am a survivor of sexual assault. I need trigger warnings. Notice that I use the word “need”– not want, not favor, but need. In order to be a student who is actively able to contribute to the classroom environment, in order to be a productive member of a workplace, in order to function socially. When a professor or coworker or friend prefaces something they’re about to say with the words “trigger warning” or some sort of preface that we’re going to be discussing a sensitive topic, I am able to brace myself in order to fully engage in this interaction.

The words of this article further enforces the damaging stigma surrounding survivors of sexual assault, mental illness, and other types of life experiences. While I should have been prepared to see this kind of language from Skidmore News considering their previous coverage on sexual assault and gender equality on campus, I truly expected more of the Editorial Board when it came to this topic.

I am not intellectually lazy. I have a good GPA, I have consistently taken 18-credit course-loads while simultaneously working three part-time jobs and running my own organization. I am strong, I am smart– and it has taken me years to be able to see this within myself. If memory serves me correctly, I have stepped out of a class only twice in my entire college career to compose myself– and this was not due to a trigger warning giving me permission to. This was because a professor did not use a trigger warning before launching into a discussion on graphic depictions of sexual assault– something that I was not mentally prepared to handle, but that I could have had there been a warning that this was where the conversation was headed.

If needing a trigger warning to be able to feel safe and able to engage in this community makes me intellectually lazy, than goddamnit, I guess I’m intellectually lazy. But if Skidmore News and other members of this supposedly warm and open community decide to stigmatize and create an unsafe environment for individuals who also need trigger warnings, then they are willingly ignorant and rude.

Please note that I have chosen not to respond to the Skidmore News article on their own website, as I do not want to give them any more publicity or traffic than I already have by addressing their horrifying remarks.

#ICYMI: Feminist News Round-Up (September 14 – September 20, 2015)

9.20 ICYMI

Photo: Andrew Burton

US House of Representatives Votes to Defund Planned Parenthood
On Friday, the US House of Representatives voted to block all federal funding of Planned Parenthood. While this bill has little-to-no chance of actually going into effect due to opposition from President Obama and the Democratic party, this sheds light on an important political issue– a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body– which we thought was set in stone with the passing of Roe v. Wade in 1973. Needless to say, we will keep fighting until bodily autonomy is assured for all women. We Stand with Survivors, and we #StandwithPP. For more information on the vote, click here.


Photo: Vevo

Photo: Vevo

Lady Gaga Teams Up with The Hunting Ground to Raise Awareness for Campus Sexual Assault
In her haunting new music video “Til It Happens to You,” released in partnership with The Hunting Ground, Lady Gaga reveals the realities of rape taking place each and every day on college campuses. Dianne Warren, the composer of the song, stated in an interview, “I want [people] to know that they’re not alone and they’re not victims, but they’re survivors.” Part of the proceeds from the song and music video will be donated to organizations that support survivors of sexual assault. To watch the video, click here.


Tyra Banks and Chrissy Teigen

Photo: Startracks

Chrissy Teigen and Tyra Banks Shed Light on Fertility Issues
On a recent episode of their new talk show FABLife, models Chrissy Teigen and Tyra Banks disclose their personal struggles with infertility and discuss the pain that societal expectations have on them in this regard. Teigen stated, “I can’t imagine being that nosy to be like, ‘So, when are the kids coming?’ Because who knows what somebody’s going through? Who knows if somebody’s struggling to have children?” So many people are unaware that the expectation for women to be mother’s can be very emotionally and personally detrimental– we are so grateful that Teigen and Banks decided to speak out on the issue. To watch the full clip, click here.

#ICYMI: Feminist News Round-Up (September 7 – September 13, 2015)

 #ICYMI (September 7 - September 13, 2015)
Safe Campus Act Protests

Photo: Huffington Post

Controversy Surrounding the Safe Campus Act

For some horrifying reason, a bill (the Safe Campus Act) is being considered in the House which would limit colleges’ abilities to punish students found in violation of their sexual misconduct policy. If passed, this policy would only allow colleges to sanction perpetrators if survivors also file a complaint with police. This is in direct violation of Title IX, the gender equity law that allows survivors the option of of choosing to whom they want to report. For more information on the bill, click here.


Joe Biden Rape Kit Backlog

Photo: REX/REX USA

Lawmakers Pledge $80 Million to Help End the Rape Kit Backlog

This week, Vice President Joe Biden was joined by US Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance to announce a new plan to process the estimated 70,000 untested rape kits in the United States– a pledge of $80 million worth of federal funds. This marks a huge step for the government towards the prosecution of rapists and protection of survivors. For more information about the announcement, click here.


Reshma Quereshi

Photo: Make Love Not Scars

Woman Highlight’s India’s Acid Attack Problem via YouTube “Beauty Tutorials”

Reshma Bano Quershi, Indian acid attack survivor and activist, has garnered a great deal of attention this week for her beauty tutorial on YouTube, spreading awareness for India’s rampant acid attack problem. In her video “How to get perfect red lips”Qureshi discusses that it is just as easy, and occasionally cheaper, for attackers to purchase concentrated acid as it is for her to buy a tube of lipstick. For more information on Quershi and the Make Love Not Scars campaign, click here.


Beverly Gooden and #WhyIStayed

Photo: ABC News

#WhyIStayed Celebrates One Year of Viral Fame

One year ago last week, Beverly Gooden responded to the massive Ray Rice domestic violence scandal from a different perspective. She created the revolutionary hashtag #WhyIStayed in order to combat the shaming and demoralization of women who choose to stay with their abusive partners. To read Gooden’s one year reflection on #WhyIStayed, click here.

SAME STORY, DIFFERENT POLITICIAN: Donald Trump and Rape Culture

Same Story, Different Politician: Donald Trump and Rape Culture

Photo Courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump has certainly been taking over the internet and television with his, uh, interesting run for the Republican presidential nomination. Known for his accusatory and crude remarks about everyone from Jeb Bush to Rosie O’Donnell, it has been almost impossible to go a day without hearing someone talking about his latest offensive statement.

A few days ago, I was sitting in an airport terminal, checking my Twitter and getting ready to board my flight, when I see these tweets of his from 2013:

Donald Trump 2013 Tweets on Rape Culture

I’m sorry- what? This epidemic of military sexual assault is expected because the government decided to treat men and women as equals and allow both to fight in the military?

I could probably write thousands of blog posts about what is wrong and horrible about these statements, and maybe one day I will. But right now, I want to shed light on something equally as appalling: Donald Trump is not the first politician to make such horrifying remarks that perpetuate the cycle of rape culture. In fact, he is a part of a long line of politicians and members of the legal community who have made such remarks. Don’t believe me? Keep reading.

  1. “[Rape is] simply, like, nobody plans to have an accident in a car accident, nobody plans to have their homes flooded. You have to buy extra insurance for those.” -Barbara Listing, president of the Michigan Right to Life on why abortion coverage should be purchased as its own individual policy, including for victims of sexual assault or incest
  2. “[The sexual assault victim] was as much in control of the situation [as the perpetrator, and was] older than her chronological age.” -Montana Judge G. Todd Baugh on his decision to sentence a 54-year-old teacher to only 30 days in prison after being convicted of raping a 14-year old student
  3. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.” -Republican Representative Todd Akin responding to a local news interviewer’s question about whether he believes abortion is justified in cases of rape
  4. “If [sexual assault] is inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.” -1990 Texas Republican gubernatorial nominee Clayton Williams during to reporters and press while holding a cattle roundup on his ranch

Same story, different politician, still not okay. It is up to us to continue fighting this battle and raging against the rape culture so prominent in our society today. We’re glad to be fighting and raging with you.

Sexual Scoring and the St. Paul’s Prep School Rape Trial

St. Paul's Sexual Scoring

The work Stand with Survivors partakes in oftentimes revolves around sexual assault on college campuses– I founded this organization after my own appalling treatment at my college after reporting my rapists. But recent headlines have drifted away from college hearings and focused in on a previously disregarded social strata: prep school.

This week, 19-year-old Owen Labrie is standing trial for several felonies involving sexual assault of a freshman girl at his prestigious New Hampshire prep school, St Paul’s, a mere three days prior to his graduation.

We will not get into the details of the assault– those are online in other forums if you are interested, but we believe that it is a survivor’s right to tell her or his story, rather than having the details of their trauma broadcasted across the internet due to an affidavit.

Today we will be focusing on this issue of “sexual scoring” and how it perpetuates rape culture.

According to Labrie, St. Paul’s senior males take part in the “senior salute,” a competition to sleep with more younger students than any of their other classmates. Each conquest earned them a tally, kept on a whiteboard on a wall behind the washing machine and then on an online forum. Labrie admitted to police that he did have the intention of having the highest “score” of his senior class, thereby winning this challenge and apparently the misogynistic respect of his male peers.

2011 St. Paul’s Aluma Carolyn Forrester commented on this pervasive rape culture at her alma mater: “This incident felt both out of the blue and like it had been waiting to happen for a long time.” She also stated that many aspects of the case appeared to be “business as usual” for the St. Paul’s student culture.

Sound familiar? It turns out that “scoring” culture is a strong sexual script for men, pervasive in almost every level of society. Sexual scripts provide cultural expectations and guidelines for sexual behavior— how people are supposed to approach the subject and how they are supposed to have behaved within said acts.

When we’re examining this scandal at St. Paul’s, however, we see this sexual script of “scoring” taken to a predatory level. Seniors only gained social credit when they had sex with freshman and sophomore students, presumably below the New Hampshire age of consent— 16 years old.

So what happens when sexual scripts collide with predatory, illegal actions such as sexual assault? Our stance is that while this may help explain the prevalence of sexual assault in prep schools, as well as other social settings, it does not excuse one’s actions whatsoever.

We at Stand with Survivors are sincerely hoping that administrators and adults in these students’ lives are taking the time to have conversations with them about the subjects of consent and sexual assault. If you have a child or other young person in your life, use this story as an opener to start an ongoing conversation about these things.