How To Donate Safely This Winter

With the holiday season in full effect, people’s interest in giving back is beginning to increase. Donations are a great way to give back to the community. However, donors must be careful who they are choosing to donate too. There are many ways and services that can protect you and your money from being taken.

Anti-sexual violence organizations are great places to donate. The media has recently uncovered a mass amount of abuse happening in the United States and survivors need your help.

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Tell tale signs and services you can use to stay safe:

Paying attention to payment method
Stay alert if donations are being requested in cash only or requiring your credit card number over the phone. Before giving any money contact the charity and find out what constitutes as a secure donation.

Proceeds
Take precaution if a charity claims all of the proceeds are going to victims and resources. All charities have administrative costs.

Non-cash donations
If you are still feeling unsure about a charity, making a material donation rather than a cash donation can be just as beneficial. Many charities seek food, clothing and toys.

GuideStar
GuideStar has records of 1.8 million nonprofits. Users are able to see a charity’s income, spending, mission and executive salaries. For those who more information can pay for premium services which include deeper financial analysis and access to a nonprofit’s contractor.

Charity Navigator
Charity Navigator gives user charity specific ratings. The site has evaluated 7,000 nonprofits. Based on a four star system, Charity Navigator analyzes the charity’s financial health, accountability, and transparency. In addition, there is an examination of how much of the charity’s income goes to programs as well as the percentage that goes to the administration and fundraising.

Charity Watch
Charity Watch offers advice, articles, ratings, and basic information to the public. Members are allowed more access to further information. This site also notifies users of instances of charity abuse.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/08/giving/how-to-choose-a-charity-wisely.html https://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-montali/how-to-tell-if-a-charity-_b_9806518.html

Want to help victims of sexual assault? Below are some credible organizations.

Turnaround
Turnaround’s mission is to build a community that is free of sexual violence. They offer many programs to help survivors heal and other educational programs for those unaware of the major issue. Ways your donation can help include helping a survivor of sex trafficking get home and just keeping the organization afloat. You can donate here

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)
RAINN is the working to end sexual violence and partners with 1,000 local organizations with the same mission. Together they hope to prevent sexual violence, support survivors and find justice. By donating to RAINN you are helping thousands of people affected by sexual violence. Out of every dollar, 93 cents will go towards programs and services. You can donate here

Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA)
MCASA’s mission is “…to help prevent sexual assault, advocate for accessible, compassionate care for survivors of sexual violence, and work to hold offenders accountable.” Originally forming after 13 Maryland crisis center’s came together, they now hold many high achievements, an incredible amount of crisis centers and multiple ways to get involved. Most MCASA donations go towards legal services for survivors and outreach programs. You can donate here.

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The Elite vs The Rest of Us

Day by day we hear of new allegations of sexual assault and or harassment. It is becoming more and more apparent that no one is safe from this issue. While media has done a wonderful job at highlighting the grotesque behaviors of many people within politics and the entertainment industry… what about everybody else?

The attention being brought to this issue has yet to trickle down to those who are not at the top. These powerful women can and should use their privilege to project how wide scale of a problem this is. The majority of people who are victims of sexual assault and or harassment do not have an influential position in society and need help. There must be a shift from the attention only being on the famous and work to include the mass amount of the general public who are victims as well.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) has complied some astounding statistics:

  • Every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted
  • On average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 and older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States
  • 1 in 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime
  • Females ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault
  • 82 percent of juvenile victims are female, 90 percent of adult rape victims are female
  • Not only females are victims of rape, sexual assault or harassment

Source: RAINN

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The Monument Quilt, displaying stories of sexual assault and abuse survivors, at Towson University.

This has and will be an ongoing issue for everyone. Where do our priories stand if we only nationally publicize this issue when it’s effecting powerful people? This is unjust for most of the female survivors in America.

Their are groups of females who are at a higher risk of experiencing sexual assault. Factors can be divided into individual, relationship, community and societal. The list below includes a few that fall within each category:

Individual
– Alcohol and drug use
Exposure to sexually explicit media
Early sexual initiation

Relationship
– Association with sexually aggressive, hyper masculine, and delinquent peers
– Childhood history of physical, sexual or emotional abuse
– Emotionally unsupportive family environment

Community
Poverty
General tolerance of sexual violence within the community
Lack of institutional support from police and judicial system

Societal
Societal norms that support male superiority and sexual entitlement
Societal norms that maintain women’s inferiority and sexual submissiveness
High levels of crime and other forms of violence

Source: CDC 

While everyone is at risk, these individuals and their potential danger should be prioritized when it comes to bringing attention to the matter. Many of these individuals may not know they are at a higher risk of being sexually assaulted. In addition, many of these females who have been brave and come forward with their stories stand muted compared to those who have unrightfully been deemed higher importance (America’s elite).

Everyone is important and every story of sexual assault should be treated the same. No one deserves to be sexually assaulted. Although, everyone deserves the same support.

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Social Media Spikes Fake Activism

Social media has created a platform for fake activism. Applications such as Facebook and Twitter allow users to voice their opinions on current events. However, actions such as changing your profile picture to show your support towards the latest tragedy, retweeting a tweet that says “retweet in support of …” or taking a selfie at a march really isn’t doing anything to help a cause. While the intention is positive, there are many ways to create influential change other than just acting the part. A good start would be putting down the phones and getting involved.

Most recently we have seen the #MeToo campaign. This does not discredit the bravery of any women or men who have come forward with their stories of sexual assault. Bringing attention to the issue is huge but we cannot stop there.

Needed change will not come from likes, favorites, retweets, shares, snaps, or posts.

How to be an effective activist:

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The Towson University sexual assault peer educators placed purple flags on Cook Beach to demonstrate how many students will be in an unhealthy relationship.

Educate yourself
Reading, listening, and watching sources about your cause can make you a better activist and help you help others. To be an effective activist you do not need to be all knowing about a topic. Although, working to know more and understand the opinions around you is beneficial. By taking the time to understand your opponents opinion you can strengthen your own position and potentially learn a new, more effective delivery.

Use your voice
Telling your story is a great way to get connected with people. Social media can help you find like minded people who are working towards the same change as you.

Outside of groups, putting a face on a movement is huge. If people can find you relatable and see the humanity behind your story and movement differences can be made. No voice should go unheard. Tell your story again and again and again and you will find someone who want to listen.

Volunteer
Volunteering allows you do educate yourself and experience new things. Find an organization that is helping your cause and further search what volunteer options they offer. During this process you are likely to feel proud about the work you are doing and see the change you are causing.

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Community
Everyone seems to want to cause national or global change. To do so, we must start small. Repeated action within a community helps change overtime. It is when you have successfully activated change within your community that you can then take the next step. Do not under estimate the effect of small change in the grand scheme.

Donate
Many of us live very busy lives. May it be work, school or family consuming your time you can still be an activist. Much like volunteering, find an organization working with the cause you are interested in. No donation is too little. By helping fund an organization, they can help create the change you desire.

All of this being said, social media can still be a very powerful tool in activism. Just be sure you don’t hide behind your screen and keep on fighting.

Sources: NBC News One Green Planet

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Breaking the Golden Rules: Sexual Assault

Growing up we are taught many simple rules that carry on with us for the rest of our lives. Some of these rules included washing our hands, cleaning up after ourselves, treating others the way we want to be treated, taking responsibility for our actions…

These rules may seem obvious when applying them to your adult life; however, it seems many adults are unable to follow what I consider the golden rules— treat others the way you want to be treated and take responsibility for your actions.

Allegations of sexual harassment have been flooding the media. After reading an article, Of Power, Predators And Innocent Mistakes: The Complex Problems of Sexual Harassment, it has come to my attention that there is a lack of people complying with the golden rules.

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I have compiled a list of a few reasons people seem to excuse themselves from these rules:

Power
Sexual Harassment is linked to power. The position of woman in many societies is lower to that of men creating an initial sense of power. Sexual harassment is comprised of unacceptable sexual behavior and an abuse of power. An adaptation from Martha Langelan gives an example as such…

“…when a harasser sabotages a woman’s work, he is not engaging in any kind of romantic sexual action. He is engaging in aggression. This situation is no different from that of the street harasser who comments on a woman’s body as she walks by, the coworker who wont stop touching her or the landlord who won’t repair the sink because she hasn’t been nice enough to him. While not one of these actions is sexual in an affectionate or friendly sense, all are forms of sexual harassment.”

It is the power society has granted these people that makes such actions overlooked and discredited as something other than sexual harassment.

Source: The Advocates for Human Rights

Economic Status
To go with power, economic status has a large role in cases where perpetrators neglect their moral responsibility. The wage gap between men and women stands at a 20 percent difference. Studies show that women working in traditional male roles are more likely to be sexually harassed. Although, studies also show that predominately female workplaces with male management are subject to most sexual harassment.

It seems the community, myself included, forgets or overlooks the impact this has on the financial state of the victims:

“According to the National Council for Research on Women, women are 9 times more likely than men to quit their jobs, 5 times more likely to transfer, and 3 times more likely to lose jobs because of harassment. A woman’s job status may be jeopardized and and she may lose wages if she is fired or takes extended leave to avoid the harasser.”

Source: Feminist Majority Foundation

Media
The sexualization of women in media is far from a newly developed problem. Starting as early as the 1950s, advertisements in the United States began depicting women as objects who’s sole purpose were to serve their male superiors. Overtime, we have seen women be treated as brainless, household servants and transition to sex objects. In recent times, advertisers have found a way to subliminally silence women and emphasize their position as sexual objects. While the messages portrayed by these images aren’t always explicit, they have influence on the behavior of the viewers.

“In a 2008 study of 1,988 advertisements from 50 well known American magazines, researchers from Wesleyan University found that half of them show women as sex objects.”

Sources:
Jeffery, N. (2017) Power of Beauty Standards. Unpublished manuscript. Towson University.
PBS News Hour

The current sexual assault epidemic has put many men of power in the spotlight. During this time, I have read few headlines identifying sincere apologies. Why are so many neglecting the simple rules we were taught so young? Why aren’t we properly taking responsibility for our actions? Why aren’t we apologizing for them? And lastly, why are we not treating others like we would like to be treated?

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#MeToo: An Agent for Change

Me too— two words used on a regular basis. It wasn’t until recently these simple words gained a lot more meaning. Recent events, mainly the case of Harvey Weinstein, have the social media world fuming. The #MeToo campaign, a campaign used to highlight the prevalence of sexual assault and advocate for change, has begun to uncover serious allegations.

Social media has become a powerful forum that allows for advocacy as well as the perpetuation of social issues. #MeToo is giving a voice to many survivors who did not feel they had a platform before.

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Woman and men from all over are taking a stand.

Katie #metoo

I too have a story to tell.

The day begins to dim as gray clouds fill the sky. I am 17 years old working in the restaurant industry. I am wiping menus when a regular customer approaches me. I am dressed in a white t-shirt that is decorated with the restaurant logo and a sugar skull. I am conscious of the turning weather when the man suggests I go outside and collect the condiments before it starts to rain. Before I am able to respond, he continues. He retracts his suggestion and then states maybe I should wait until it starts raining, that I’m a pretty girl, a pretty girl that would look even better wet.

I am walking the streets of Baltimore dressed as the comic book character Poison Ivy. The air is cold and the night is dark. My roommate and I are unfamiliar with the area when we approach a man for directions. He tells us where to go but before letting us continue on he asks if we would mind taking our underwear off for him. He desperately offered money when we began to walk away.

While these two instances of verbal sexual assault stand out most, the occasions of cat calls and inappropriate gestures are unlimited. Being a woman with naturally large breasts comes with a lot of undesired baggage. I was not born into this body to have men greet me by looking at my boobs before my eyes. Society and media have perpetuated this and by doing so failed me. But what have I done to deserve this?

You are not alone. #MeToo.

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Society’s understanding of what qualifies as sexual assault is limited. Day to day loads of women are exposed to sexualization and objectification… often times assault can come along with. While the definition of sexual assault may seem obvious, many perpetrators do not deem their assaults as assault.

With that being said, as of 2017 the Department of Justice models instances of sexual assault based off of the following information:

What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is any type of forced or coerced sexual contact or behavior that happens without consent. Sexual assault can be physical, visual, and verbal.

What does sexual assault include?

  • Any type of sexual contact with someone who cannot consent
  • Rape
  • Attempted rape
  • Sexual coercion
  • Sexual contact with a child
  • Incest
  • Fondling or unwanted touching above or under clothes
  • Watching private sexual acts without consent
  • Exposing ones genitalia in public (flashing)
  • Sexual harassment or threats
  • Forcing someone to pose for sexual pictures

If you are a victim of sexual assault there are many channels available for you. For immediate help, call the Office on Women’s Health helpline at 800-994-9662.

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