Blog posts you want to appear on the feed.

News Today Sucks

News Today Sucks.

News today sucks.

And while thoughts like “Why am I reading about Kim Kardashian’s latest scandal instead of the slave trade in Libya??” are perfectly fair questions to ask yourself and the media, I want to hone in on something more specific here: media coverage of the anti-sexual assault movement, and content warnings.

This movement, which has had its ups and downs (like most movements in history) is rumbling, and this time it’s bigger than ever. Survivors of sexual assault are choosing to share their stories, perpetrators are being held accountable (for the most part). The media is having a heyday in covering the topic that everyone’s buzzing about, and the conversation surrounding sexual assault is shedding a much-needed light on the rampant issue that it is.

Stigma breaks more and more by the day.

But, as a survivor myself, and also someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, I know it can be really horrible to not be able to go on social media or news sites without seeing something about sexual assault—reminding me of my own, reminding me of the times I have or haven’t talked about it, or just reminding me in general how many people have had to go through the same thing (anxiety, flashbacks, sadness, and more). Not to mention the comments section, which is never a place that tends to restore faith in humanity.

Is a lot of the coverage great? Yes.

Do survivors’ and allies’ voices deserve to be heard, their cases and allegations put in the spotlight if they want to? Of course.

Is this conversation essential to spreading awareness and finding solutions to the issue at its societal core? Yes, yes, yes.

But for me, and for many survivors out there, all of that can be bad for your mental health and well-being.

So here are some tips for staying sane, healthy, calm, and relatively stress-free with all these sexual assault-related stories buzzing around.

1. Give some extra attention to warnings.

  • If a news outlet (or other outlets, like Ulzi) covering the topic is aware of the seriousness of the issue and care about the well-being of their readers, they will have a content warning of some kind before the whole of the content is visible.
  • If it’s not just an article or post, but something like a newsletter sign-up or blog category, check the main blog page or any parenthetical statements in those newsletter sign-up boxes. This means they are providing the content warning at the start (the sign-up), but not in subsequent communications (not in every newsletter or post).
  • There will also be warnings in TV shows and movies. Always easy to find? No. In fact, it may only be a “Some viewers may find the following material disturbing.” Or “Explicit content.” But they’re there (kind of the bare minimum, huh?). You may also even be able to find a review of the episode or film online that will warn more specifically about certain scenes without revealing spoilers.
  • If you are blindsided by triggering content, it is your right to get up and leave, turn the TV off, or whatever you need to do to get yourself out of a harmful situation.

I know it sucks to have to be on the lookout for content warnings, especially when they’re not easy to find. But this is a great way for you to know what kind of content you’re getting into.

2. You do not (I repeat: do NOT) owe anyone your story.

  • The #MeToo movement, and inspiring movements like it, are powerful. They spread awareness and start important conversations. But that DOES NOT mean you owe anyone your story.
  • You do not need to share your story to make your experience valid. And people who tell you otherwise don’t know what they’re talking about.
  • Your feelings are valid simply because you are feeling them. You matter. If you don’t want to say #MeToo, that doesn’t mean you aren’t part of the movement. It doesn’t mean you’re not important in this initiative to end sexual assault.

3. Remember that no two stories are alike.

  • If you watch or hear about things like:
    • that episode of 13 Reasons Why where Hannah is assaulted,
    • or that episode of Riverdale where Cheryl’s friends heroically stop her assault,
  • remember that no two stories are alike, and shows like this often don’t include the full story.
  • These types of storylines often skip over the healing process, which doesn’t mean that you should feel rushed or pressured with your own healing process.
  • These storylines also often show only stereotypical situations, which can actually increase stigma and victim blaming tendencies in society. Remind yourself that you know your own experience despite what people might say.
    • If you think people in your life might be undermining your experience, inhibiting your healing process, or making you feel confused or guilty about your experience, you may be dealing with gaslighting. You can learn more about that here, including ways to combat it, safely.

4. Restrict unnecessarily triggering sources.

  • When a news outlet or social media platform often glorifies or sensationalizes issues, they’re likely to do that with most of their content, if not all of it. That’s because clickbait is, well, exactly that, clickable. Those headlines with, “And you’ll never guess what happens next…” are not going to provide a fair and just representation of the story.
  • Clean up your feed, “unlike” some places that write in a sensationalized manner, and tell Facebook to “hide” those kinds of things if they still manage to pop up in your feed (when a friend shares it, for example).
  • There are plenty of news and lifestyle sources that put more care into what their readers are seeing.

So, yeah, news today can really suck.

Scrolling through Facebook can turn into a traumatic experience in itself with little to no warning. But there are ways to combat this, and these tips can help you practice mental well-being as the movement against sexual assault continues.

At Ulzi, we care about you, your stories, your support, your well-being, and your safety above all else. We can stand together not only against sexual assault, but in support of each other as an understanding and healing community.

Have you joined us yet?

If you haven’t, you can click here to change that.

If you enjoyed this article, here is an exclusive and inspiring story about several fraternities and sororities that have pledged to stand against sexual assault.

Sexual Assault car mirror 2017 ulzi app freedom community campus safety family locator gps phone tracker emergency alert system

2017 in the Rearview Mirror

I like to think of my life as constant forward motion, treating it like a journey – a road trip would be my ideal metaphor. Cruising down an endless Route 66, sitting in the driver’s seat of my 1970s station wagon, I peer up in my rearview mirror on occasion. But this year, I’m hesitant to look back. If you’re anything like me, looking back to 2017 is daunting.

It was a crazy year, to say the least, and one that will define the trajectory of our lives for years to come – to say the most. 

For those of us involved in organizations seeking to end sexual violence, this last year feels equal parts exciting and exhausting. After all, so far, the news sucks. Peeking in the door mirror on my right I see Women’s Marches and #MeToo movements, and I’m hopeful now. My spirit lifted, I look into the left door mirror now – and I see how horribly pervasive sexual assault and harassment really is. But looking at the past year in such small snippets doesn’t do me any good. I overcome my fear and glance up into the rearview mirror, and this is what I see: 

The Year Began…

January beckoned 2017 into existence with an inauguration that would stoke a political divide in the discussion about sexual assault. Regardless of your feelings about politics and the current presidential administration, sexual assault should stand out as a moral blemish on our lives.  

In response, women from around the country flooded into Washington D.C. for the Women’s March on January 21st and 22ndFive hundred thousand strong, people of all genders marched in protest of continued inaction against an unfair societal standard for women and other gender minorities. The march wasn’t contained to D.C. either, and organized marches and protests around the globe grew to over 2.5 million participants. The stage was set for unprecedented social change.  

But, while conversations flared and political posturing from individual states continued to heat the melting pot of American diversity to a boiling point, nothing seemed to change. The gaze of media diverted from sexual assault and feminist movements to other policy changes. I felt like I must look outside of my own nation to find examples of progressive gender movement.  

A Sleepy Summer

Through a lens concerned with preventing sexual assault, I thought the summer was sleepy. At its conclusion in September, a new slough of changes began to materialize. Title Ⅸ guidance was changed, allowing more leeway in the way that universities could handle accusations of sexual misconduct, harassment, and assault. On top of that, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy was threatened, making it less clear whether survivors under DACA would be taken seriously or protected from deportation if they chose to come forward.

From the position of a prevention advocate, I feared that it would leave more perpetrators free to continue to hurt people. As a human being, I feared thousands would continue to have their voices stripped away. 

But Then Something Changed  

The New York Times published a story detailing decades of accusations of sexual assault against Hollywood production giant Harvey Weinstein. In the coming media storm, Weinstein’s own company fired him and social and traditional media shamed him for his actions. It became clear to the country that an unchecked culture of misogyny and sexual abuse existed within the entertainment business. 

Just two weekends later, a hashtag began to circulate: #MeToo. The hashtag was part of a larger organizational campaign begun by Tarana Burke. Her organization, Me Too, began their fight against sexual assault in 2006. The Sunday of that weekend, actor Alyssa Milano tweeted using #MeToo.

By the end of that night, my own Facebook feed was populated with women’s – and some men’s – statements and stories of their own experiences at the hands of abusers.  

An avalanche of sexual misconduct and assault accusations ensued for the next three months (and they’re still coming) implicating not just producers and directors, but actorscomedians, and politicians. There were men on that list that I looked up to, and this forced a great reconciliation for me – as I’m sure it did for many of you. I chose to believe the survivors, regardless of who they say hurt them.  

By December, the movement became so large and pervasive that Time declared its person of the year “The Silence Breakers.” The women (and men) who spoke out against their abusers were given an unprecedented platform to recount their experiences. Encouraged by these Silence Breakers, more survivors continue to come forward in the new year.

The Road Ahead

Sitting in the drivers’ seats of our lives, we can only look into that rearview mirror for so long. Eventually we have to look forward again, keeping our eyes on the road ahead of us. But there are important lessons to be gleaned from the events of this last year, and even more from those events which didn’t happen.

I would be remiss not to mention the missing intersectionality in many of the cases the media has been headlining.   

Throughout the course of the emergence of the silence breakers, there has been a gross omission of effort to recognize and acknowledge sexual abuse of many other groups. Many of these, like migrant workers, are still experiencing abhorrent behavior at the hands of power structures not unlike those exposed in Hollywood. So, I hope that this is just the beginning of a much larger conversation about not just the highly visible arenas of entertainment and politics.  

It’s January 2018 now, but as all mirrors will remind you, “Objects are closer than they appear.” As you hit the turn signal and take Exit 2018, I would ask you to make sure that you crank the radio up. Listen to what 2017 is telling you, and learn just one thing: the discussion on sexual assault is just beginning.

Katrina's Me Too Story ulzi app freedom community campus safety family locator gps phone tracker emergency alert system

7 Years of Silence: My Story & Why #MeToo Matters

Seven Years Silent

Each day it seems the news has another survivor sharing their story of sexual assault or harassment. Sometimes these stories take years to uncover. My story has remained quiet for seven.

#MeToo

I’ve shared bits and pieces of my story with friends over the years, but I never wanted my family to know. I didn’t want the man to get into trouble – and for a while, I was protecting myself. I knew what would be said about me; I knew the whispers of victim blaming that would surround my story. 

So when the #MeToo movement came in Fall 2017, I struggled for hours about whether I should also raise my voice. Ultimately, I did. The assault was then, and this is now; I’m ready to tell my story. 

An Impressionable High School Girl 

A little over seven years ago, I thought I’d found the man I was going to marry. I met him when I was 15 and he was 19 – my tennis coach. He was gorgeous. Blue eyes, the brightest I’d ever seen. He was sarcastic and fun, and he gave me a hard time on-court and during running drills. At most, he showed little interest in me, but my crush was real. 

It wasn’t until the summer I was 16 I thought I may have a chance with him. He called me every night, invited me shopping, took me out for ice cream, let me tag along at band practice, etc. I was excited because the big college guy was showing interest in me – the choir-nerd, bad tennis-playing, rising high school junior. 

Nothing happened between us that summer other than fun memories and me falling in love. In the fall, he went back to college and forgot about the impressionable high school girl back home. 

The following summer, 2010, he came back for me. First, we started hanging out at his friend’s house where he introduced me to marijuana and alcohol – two things I’d never seen, let alone tried. 

Three weeks after he came home, he asked me to come to his apartment in his college town for lunch. I got there at noon to find him five or six shots into a bottle of Sailor Jerry. 

“You’re A Machine” 

He sat me down and offered me a half shot with a chaser of orange juice. It was my first taste of alcohol in my whole life, but it went down smooth. The orange juice not as well. Two more half shots and two more swigs of orange juice. He knocked back the shots one after the other, no chaser needed. “You’re a machine,” he said just before he had me walk a straight line, 

“You’re a machine,” he said again just as the Beatles music pumping through the surround sound stopped. 

He disappeared to his basement bedroom where the stereo was, promising to be back soon. I picked up the nearest guitar, strumming through some of the simpler songs I’d been learning. When my fingers started cramping, I realized how much time had passed. Suddenly it felt like he’d been gone for hours. 

I laid down the guitar on the couch and walked down the stairs. In the basement, I found him face down on the floor by the bed. Concerned, and naive to the true effects of alcohol, I shook him awake. He came to, laughing, his eyes looking heavy. He sat up and leaned towards me with that smile I had dreamt about so many times. Soon, we were kissing on the bed. 

Morning 

The next thing I know, I’m waking up to blood. Blood everywhere. I think I must have started my period. I remember nothing of the night before—the closest my memories could get was waking him up off the floor. With the blackout curtains, I had no idea what time it was, but my body was stiff and it felt late. I look for my pants only to discover them at the base of the bed. I picked them up and find my phone on the ground; it was late evening already. 

I go up the stairs to the bathroom. I’m panicked. Embarrassed and afraid of what he might think. In the bathroom, I see blood in my hair, sticky and dried all throughout. My pink petal hippie vest harbored dark red smears. I mean I had gotten my period unexpectedly overnight before, but what the hell? 

I clean myself up and stuff a wad of toilet paper into my underwear. I know I’ll have to wait hours for a real pad or tampon–I was supposed to perform at youth group later that night. 

I descend the stairs back to the basement; he wakes up as I fall down them. 

He just laughed and said, “I gave you a big creampie,” and suggests I’m now pregnant. From there, I’m not sure how I felt. Scared and alone in my head, I blocked out most every thought. He drove me to the local pharmacy for the morning after pill, but I couldn’t buy it because I left my ID at his place. So, he drives to another pharmacy and goes in to buy it himself. 

After that, I drove home to go to church and didn’t speak of the event for years. The guilt and shame was too much to handle. 

Defining It 

For a long time, I didn’t really know what happened. Nothing in my head clicked. I thought it was premarital sex. Something I was responsible for and something that could have been prevented. Something that I would be punished for if my family ever found out, and something God would punish me for in the afterlife. It wasn’t until I was telling my best friend what happened and he called it rape that the word even entered my mind. For me, denial was easier than acceptance. 

After the situation was defined, it took me even longer to come to terms with it. I thought of all the survivors of sexual assault out there, and felt I didn’t deserve to put myself alongside such strong women. I didn’t feel as though I qualified. I didn’t want to take those titles away from those who truly survive it. 

Then and Now 

Over the years, as (I would venture to say) all women experience, there’s been plenty of harassment from colleagues, supervisors, higher-ups of my workplaces who have inappropriately kissed me, commented on my social media, asked me out (even when married), and countless other instances. 

Each time, I was scared of their power or the judgment that could be cast on me. 

Each time, I was scared of the potential whispers that I was too nice and gave men the wrong idea or was leading them on. I was scared of what my family would say and their chastising that I shouldn’t have put myself in those situations. 

But claiming my #MeToo meant owning the pieces of my story that scared me. 

It meant admitting to the public and to myself that I, too, am a sexual assault survivor. That I did, in my own, messy way, heal from that event and survived it. And deserved to stand alongside the women in my life and in the news that so bravely came forward. 

I found strength in the women of the #MeToo movement. They helped me accept that I am one of them, I am strong, I am a survivor, and I always have been. And I’m grateful for that.

 


Have a story to share? We’d love to hear from you. Please email our Editor in Chief, Hannah, at hannah@ulzi.com. You may choose to remain anonymous, and we won’t publish your story without your permission. Thank you for sharing your story; you are crucial in our community’s effort to ending sexual assault.