Dear Officers: Tell rapists not to rape instead of telling survivors that they have to report.

Dear Officer ,

I don’t know anything about you, your reputation in town, your previous efforts towards changing the way officers advocate in their work with survivors of sexual assault. I want to assume your best intentions. Your presence at this event makes me sure you are an ally to our community and I sincerely thank you for all that you do, each and every day. Your sincere acknowledgement of the survivors’ stories was respectful and admirable.

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However, in the same breath that you said “Officers don’t blame survivors for being sexually assaulted”, you sympathetically stated: “I just wish you had come to us.” A survivor on the panel responded emphatically that she had no interest, at the time, in being in the same room as her perpetrator, just the thought made her physically ill. We need to question our reporting systems — not survivors’ decisions to engage with them.

I want you to know that despite what you think justice, accountability, or healing look like, each survivor has her own needs and wants and to suggest that reporting to the police after a survivor speaks out is a reflection of our society’s narrow view of justice after sexual violence: sending the perpetrator to prison. To suggest that a survivor should have done something differently can be re-traumatizing. Survivors are inundated with messages of blame from family, friends, and the media; survivors have to deal with an incredible level of scrutiny of their actions. Your well-intentioned comment suggests that the survivor did something wrong, could have “survived” better, or perhaps that she did not “get justice” for herself.

When “even survivors who do report to the police are often abandoned by the system. Only a quarter of all reported rapes lead to an arrest, only a fifth lead to prosecution, and only half of those prosecutions result in felony conviction,” it’s understandable why survivors might decide not to go to the police.

I’m confident you want what’s best for every survivor. Next time you have the opportunity to hear a survivor volunteer to share her story to educate allies and police officers, remember: your words are powerful. The language and sensitivity the police department adopts when working with survivors of sexual assault matters. Both in terms of your overall effectiveness in demonstrating compassion, as well as impacting survivors who might someday decide to come to the police for help. Lastly, as a leader in your department, please ensure that next time there’s an “Empowerment Victims” event, there are more than 2 men in the room.

In her article on Feministing, Wagatwe Wanjuki concludes: “What I am saying is that we need to respect individual survivors and their decisions in this very personal, difficult process. Just as pro-choice advocates call on legislators to “trust women,” I advocate for us to trust survivors of violence. Why can’t we trust women (and survivors of all identities) to know what is the best way for them to heal?”

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With appreciation,

Jocelyn

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter…in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/america-tonight/articles/2014/5/19/why-college-rapevictimsdonatgotothepolice.html

http://feministing.com/2014/04/11/stop-telling-survivors-they-must-report-to-the-police/

http://knowyourix.org/why-schools-handle-sexual-violence-reports/

http://www.vox.com/2014/12/10/7368829/rape-statistics

http://mic.com/articles/115366/we-have-to-stop-telling-survivors-it-s-their-duty-to-report-sexual-assault

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A Week I’ll Remember

This past week has been a roller coaster ride of emotions. I feel full, inspired, and ready to try to integrate these experiences aka make sense of the madness. IMG_3053 Saturday I attended a fundraiser hosted by Haymarket’s People Fund for Community Change. The community conversation led by longtime anti-racism activist and author Tim Wise and Haymarket People’s Fund Executive Director Karla Nicholson focused on the recent lack of indictments, the Black Lives Matters movement and the impact of these events on the anti-racism community. I was drawn to the event because Tim Wise was my introduction to antiracism work (heard him speak my first semester of college at Mount Holyoke). The highlight for me was getting to talk to an inspiring Smith alumnae, currently Director of Client Services at Project Place.  I’m looking forward to meeting with her next month to learn more about her awesome work! Also, I loved Tim’s perspective on the importance of remembering that mistakes are part of organizing and activists and leaders should be supporting young people leading this movement. Monday was Martin Luther King Day. I participated in a protest against police brutality, mass incarceration, etc. Out of the 4 other protests I’ve been to this Fall, this one had the most children and most energy of solidarity, and the most inspiring speakers. I learned Samuel Jackon’s I Can’t Breathe Song, which gave me chills. Cassandra Bensahih, Community Organizer from EPOCA , was one of the speakers and it was amazing to learn about her organization’s work. Friday, I finally made it to an organizing meeting. I can’t believe they keep scheduling them on Friday evenings. Still, there seemed to be a great turnout (over 100 people). I left at 9:30PM and most people were still there! The setup was thoughtful and I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of a segment on self care for activists! I so appreciated the question posed to the crowd: What can we do to make the movement inclusive to ALL people? As I headed to my car from this meeting, I was struck by the fact that I was literally walking around and between sleeping bodies who did not have a warm bed to go home to. My thoughts began wandering from short term solutions to anger. How could our society allow this to happen? How do we justify this? How do we look away and become numb to these human beings without family, without jobs, without beds to sleep in. IMG_3055 Rewind to Tuesday evening- it was the first Girls Empowerment (waiting for the girls to give us a better name!) group. This is something I’ve been planning and talking about for over a year now. I attended multiple trainings last year that fueled my passion for group work with teen girls and finally the opportunity arrived.The experience of getting the group started reminded me how patience and persistence pays off. I believe whole heartedly in the power of groups to transform us- and I couldn’t be more excited to create and hold space for these beautiful young women. I have no doubt these girls will change my life, in fact, in a week’s time, they already have.

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The next night, I joined two of my colleagues at Wayside for a panel and screening of A Path Appears. Despite some anxiety about being on a wait list, it all worked out. I was blown away by the documentary clip (focused on anti trafficking work in Boston) and can’t wait to see the rest on PBS. There was a huge acknowledgement of the real heroes of the story (not Nick Kristoff, the film producers, the celebrities, the nonprofit, etc. )—but the women who chose to share their story in the documentary simply for the sake of helping others. I was elated to learn Becca Steven’s Thistle Farms social enterprise is one of the select few organizations featured in the film because of their effectiveness in this issue. Can you BELIEVE the average age of girls who are trafficked in the US is 12-14?! My Life, My Choice (Boston NGO) begins their prevention work in middle schools. TUNE IN TONIGHT 10PM ON PBS.  Then this weekend I received tragic news about one of the families I’ve been working with over the past several months. I won’t be able to go on here due to confidentiality concerns. As you can imagine, I was tired after such an intense and full week. I was grateful to have planned an overnight with one of my closest friends. We snow-shoed, relaxed in a sauna & whirlpool, met an interesting social worker on a beach, cried, tried some delicious beverage with my mother, watched Broad City, cooked an insanely delicious salad for our friend’s housewarming/birthday party. I am definitely looking forward to this blizzard and getting to enjoy a quieter week since I’m ready to hibernate the rest of Winter! On a lighter note, I recently started dating again as an adult for the first time and these are my findings. 10407218_3426649820175_1425560900590800704_n