Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month: The Role of Law and Consent

AUTHOR: ASHLEY BENEDICT

Many people are unaware of the laws when it comes to sexual assault and rape cases. In this post, I will discuss what the laws are in Michigan, the rate at which perpetrators get convicted, and the role of consent in the law.

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Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month: The Statistics

AUTHOR: ASHLEY BENEDICT

Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. On average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States. Sexual violence is a major public health, human rights and social justice issue. On April 1, 2001 the U.S. first observed Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) nationally. The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities on how to prevent it.

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Scouting: Separate but not so equal

Author: Catherine Tutt

As an impressionable ten-year-old, I remember going to my mom and asking her if I could join Boy Scouts. My dad and brothers were both involved in scouting and I thought it was the most amazing thing; however, my mom’s response was not what I had expected. My young doe-eyed self, who thought that I could do anything, was hit with reality.

“Girls can not join Boy Scouts” is what I was told. I was immediately confused. Why couldn’t I join? I could kayak like the boys could. I could go hiking like the boys could. I could build a robot or a pinewood derby car like the boys could. In fact, I did. I participated in the annual pinewood derby put on by my brother’s troop. Many times I had come close to winning.

A year or so passed when my mom came to me with a proposition. “You can join Girl Scouts!” Excitement filled me when I realized I would get my dream. Finally, I would have a group of friends to embark on adventures with. We would climb mountains, kayak in Lake Michigan, or go white water rafting. Together, we would go on every adventure our little hearts aspired to do. I went to the first meeting with my heart overflowing with joy. The leader went through what we would do that day. We would have a whopping talk about cookies, eat some cookies, make some crafts, and then sing some songs. This was not what I was expecting. As the weeks went on I realized this was all we would do. We would sit in a circle and sing about friendship, not climb a mountain. We would have a tea party and practice etiquette, not take a trip to kayak in Lake Michigan. We would learn how to make a macaroni necklace, not how to white water raft. After a year of being disappointed, I quit.

My heart was weighted with confusion. Why wasn’t there a scouting group that allowed girls to do what the boys could do? I believed that I could do all those things—Why didn’t anyone else? I became frustrated with this notion. I noticed this was not just a thought in scouting. In the upcoming years, I would be told that I could not get the highest grade, or run the fastest mile. All because I was a girl? Well, that was just downright ludicrous. The United States of America was supposed to be a country where you could follow your dreams. How was intolerance working towards that dream?

At the tender age of now twelve, I became acquainted with a very new idea—Venturing. As a coed part of the Boy Scouts of America it focuses on leadership, community service, and high adventure. At first, I was incredibly disinterested. It was probably just another so-called “youth run” club that was not actually youth run.

Two years later I joined my local Venturing crew, and began a striking new journey. Everyone was friendly, thoughtful people who genuinely cared about me. I became associated with a group of people who strove to be adventurous and benevolent. Together we went white water rafting, rock wall climbing, horseback riding, visited a senior center, hiked, and kayaked. I was finally allowed to do what I had dreamed of.

Three months into Venturing I joined the President Ford Field Service Council as the youth council VP of Communications; three months later I moved up to VP of Program, along with becoming president of my Venturing crew. Six months later I was re-elected as crew president, as well as asked to serve another term as VP of Communications for West Michigan. Within these positions, I poured my heart and soul into Venturing. I deeply cared about my peers having treasured experiences, and I would work hard to ensure that.

I went on to earn the first, second, and very soon my third Venturing award. The fourth one, called the “Summit” award is equivalent to the Boy Scout Eagle Award. As I jumped into scouting, I found myself in love with Venturing. I loved being able to help those around me, provide leadership on outings, and most of all I loved to talk to everyone I came across. I learned the importance of what it is like to take a step back from the materialistic items in the world and let myself focus on the pure and beautiful things I came across. Like a sunrise in Wisconsin, and a sunset over Glacier National Park. The laughter of my friends, or the smell of brisk morning air as we tear down our tents. The hikes my close friend, Kait, and I go on to clear our minds. Venturing gave me something that I struggled to find—peace.

While scouting has come far in terms of letting females be involved there is still an obvious push against female Scouters. With all the positive experiences I had gained, I was shocked to find I was limited from the full scouting experience based on my gender. There was still a program associated with scouts that youth females were not allowed to join. The Order of The Arrow is a program associated with the Boy Scouts of America. Their mission is to “recognize Scouts and Scouters who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives”. Each year youth and adult Scouters are recognized and inducted into the “brotherhood” of the “OA”. Except there is one catch, one secret qualifier. Female youth scouts cannot be inducted into the OA. Despite how dedicated and passionate about scouting they may be, they are still unable to be recognized.

OA advisors typically give the answer of “the OA is not a Venturing program”. Well, my question is, if Venturing is a Boy Scout program why is Venturing not included in the OA? Furthermore, male youth venturers and female advisors involved in a troop and crew are able to join the OA. Scouting was created to give both young men and women an opportunity to be passionate about leadership and the outdoors. It is foolish to give one section of scouts an opportunity to be recognized and not the other. Whether you are a male scouter or a female scouter, you deserve to have the same opportunity. Female scouts should not be deprived of an opportunity to enrich their scouting experience.

Call for Submissions: Spring Break!

Author: Ashley Benedict

Spring break is here, and most of us will be traveling, volunteering, working, or watching Netflix for the week. (And trying to catch up on school work, though we’ll likely procrastinate on that).

What else can you do, if you find the time? Well, you can submit to Feminist Voices!

Unfortunately, as the intern for this blog, I will not be able to actively check the e-mail for most of Spring Break (though I do have posts scheduled for the week) but I’m hoping that some of you will take this week off as an opportunity to submit some work for me to come back to!

For those who aren’t sure what to write about, here are some recent issues you can build ideas from:

  • Recent anti-semitism and anti-muslim hate crimes throughout the country
  • Immigration reform
  • Transgender rights
  • Clean energy and cutting funds to the EPA
  • HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities)
  • “Religious freedom” to discriminate

The Women’s Center accepts all kinds of submissions, including, but not limited to:

  • Persuasive essays or personal stories
  • Creative writing, e.g., poetry, flash fiction, short stories, etc.
  • Book/movie reviews – anything that critically examines current events or media sources and their impact on social justice issues
  • Photography (along with a brief description of how the photograph relates to a specific topic)
  • Audio/visual, e.g., songs, skits, commentary videos, etc. (Note: for those interested in submitting audio or video pieces, please visit our FAQs page).
  • Art pieces that make a statement
  • Satirical comics or comics that address feminist myths, current social issues, etc.
  • Ideas for our Question of the Day polls

Check out our Get Involved page to find out more! We at the Women’s Center encourage submissions from anyone who wishes to share their opinions and let their voice be heard. You can also draw ideas for posts from our theme of the month!

The theme of the month for March is:

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Take this break to think about how you can contribute and what issues you are passionate about. Your voice matters! Contact us through the contact page or send in submissions or questions to gvsufeministvoices@gmail.com

Hope everyone has a relaxing break!

Zero Discrimination Day

Author: Ashley Benedict

Today, March 1st, has been anointed as “Zero Discrimination Day” for 2017. In a nutshell, this is a day that promotes diversity and recognizes that everybody counts. The theme this year is the role of discrimination in healthcare, specifically pertaining to those who live with HIV/AIDS, and below is a video that highlights this issue:

Here is an interactive website with stats pertaining to a number of issues worldwide.

Non-discrimination is a human right, and so is universal healthcare. Data from 50 countries from the People Living with HIV Stigma Index show that 1 in 8 people living with HIV report being denied health care. Around 60% of European Union/European Economic Area countries report that stigma and discrimination among health-care professionals remains a barrier to the provision of adequate HIV prevention services for gay men and people who inject drugs.

From UNAIDS website and press release statement: “This year we are calling on everyone to make some noise for #zerodiscrimination. Individuals and communities can join voices and transform the world. Zero Discrimination Day is an opportunity to highlight how everyone can be part of the transformation and take a stand for a fair and just society.” In this day and age, it’s imperative that we become aware of acts of discrimination and work to dismantle our own prejudices.

How do you stay mindful of possible acts of discrimination committed by both by yourself and others? Do you call out acts of discrimination when they occur? Do you plan to? Let us know by sending submissions to gvsufeministvoices@gmail.com

National Random Acts of Kindness Day

Author: Ashley Benedict

Today is National Random Acts of Kindness Day.

Though we should engage in acts of kindness 365 days a year, the reality is that most of us don’t. We don’t buy lunch for our friends, donate blood, or donate to charity every day. Today, however, is a day we can use as an excuse to show some kindness towards the people in our life (or, even better, those who aren’t). It’s always nice to be on the receiving end of someone else’s kindness, but it also feels good to be the one giving. Here are some things you can do to brighten someone’s day and show some kindness today (and every day):

1. Smile at a stranger.

This is the simplest – and perhaps most awkward – thing you can do. But hey, you never know if they’ll smile back, or if your smile will end up making their day just a little bit better.

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2. Give a genuine compliment.

Tell someone you like their shirt, or pants, or shoes. Tell your friends how great they look. Tell your coworkers how rockin’ they look every day. Shower your significant other with compliments. I know I always feel good when people compliment me. Spread the love.

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3. Offer to buy lunch for a friend

Obviously, if you’re tight on cash, don’t feel obligated to show kindness through purchases. But if you have plans with a friend today, perhaps offer to cover them, and maybe they’ll return the favor someday. Kindness is contagious. Even better, reach out to your local homeless community and buy hot meal or two. Even a small coffee would likely be appreciated.

4. Make a donation

Most organizations love and life off of donations. Check in with some local non-profits to see what kind of items they look for and often need. Here on GVSU’s campus, Replenish is a great place to start if you find yourself wanting to donate.

Replenish hours of operation: Monday through Thursday 1 p.m. – 6 p.m. and Friday 1 p.m. -3 p.m.; Kirkhof Center room 0074-lower level

Donations are accepted on site at Replenish or at the Women’s Center during open hours. Off-campus entities can request someone pick up their donations by contacting the Women’s Center at 616-331-2748 or womenctr@gvsu.edu. Donations may be in the form of perishable and non-perishable food items, gift cards to local grocery stores, or a monetary donation. Donations are tax-deductible and the donor will be provided with a receipt from University Development reflecting their contribution. Some of the items that are most popular include laundry detergent, pasta sauce, cereal, peanut butter, canned chicken/tuna, pasta, soup, granola bars, and feminine hygiene products.

5. Donate blood

If you find you have an extra few hours today, perhaps drop by a local blood bank and offer to donate blood. There is a national need for blood donations every day (every 2 seconds, actually), and knowing that you’ll be helping someone out there and potentially saving a life is as good enough a reason as any to go out and take the time to donate. Blood banks often run out of type O and B blood. Do you have one of those blood types? Your donation would be especially appreciated. Go to http://www.miblood.org/ to find some donation centers or blood drives near you. GVSU also has multiple blood drives coming up, so be sure to check those out!

6. Hold the door or elevator open for someone

For most of us, this is a common courtesy we do subconsciously every day. However, try to do it every time you open a door or ride an elevator today. Those around you will appreciate it, and it often leads to them doing the same for other people! If the person is super far away though, things may get awkward. Hold the door open at your own risk of becoming a door stop.

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7. Pay it forward.

Like previously stated, don’t feel obligated to do this if you’re tight on money. But it’s always a nice surprise to find that someone has paid for your coffee or movie, and again, it often leads to a chain of people doing the same.

8. Call a loved one

A lot of students live on campus, and may not be able to see their loved ones as often as they would like. If you’re one of those students, try to set aside some time today to call up some family members and let them know how much you care about and appreciate them. They won’t be expecting it, and I guarantee it’ll make their day to hear from you.

9. Ask if you can help

If you see someone on or off campus struggling with something, it can never hurt to ask whether or not they would like some help. Most people will probably appreciate the extended offer, and if they take it, it’ll feel nice to know that you’ve done something for another person with no external reward.

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10. Volunteer

Perhaps the most important thing you can do, if you have the time, is volunteer. Come to the Women’s Center and ask about organizations we work with, and how/when you can help. Call up some local non-profits and see when they need volunteers and the kinds of duties they complete. A lot of organizations tend to rely on volunteers, and it’s always nice for them to see people taking an interest in their work.

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The great thing about all of these ideas are that they are small things you can do any day of the year. Make a habit out of extending kindness to others and engaging in random acts of kindness. If we all tried to focus on those around us a bit more, I think our society could be a lot more empathetic and compassionate. Find more information on the website: https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/

What kind of random acts of kindness do you do on the daily? Which ones do you plan to do in the future? How do you feel when you do something kind for others? Or when others do something kind for you? Let us know! Submit personal stories, essays, and more to gvsufeministvoices@gmail.com.

 

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Author: Ashley Benedict

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Along with Black History Month, February is also Teen Dating Violence Awareness month. Approximately 1.5 million high school students in the U.S. experience physical abuse from their partner. 3 in 4 parents have never talked to their children about domestic violence. It is due to these numbers that abuse in teen relationships is such an important conversation.

What is teen dating violence?

Teen dating violence is “defined as a pattern of abuse or threat of abuse against teenaged dating partners, occurring in different forms, including verbal, emotional, physical, sexual and digital. TDV occurs across diverse groups and cultures.” Though this definition is essentially the same as domestic violence in adult relationships, teen dating violence is different in the forms it can take as well as the experiences of the victims. It’s also far more challenging to seek resources as well as provide them in situations such as this.

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