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The White House highlights “The Line” and Circle of 6

It has been a tremendous few months of activities, conversations and action regarding the prevention of sexual violence on American college campuses.

In January 2014, the White House Council on Women and Girls released a special report “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action” outlining best practices for prevention of violence and response with a specific focus on college campuses. The report tasked colleges to do better with their education and prevention programming, and to respond appropriately and with transparency to students’ complaints. The Circle of 6 mobile app was cited as a stand-out tool to prevent violence, by harnessing mobile technology to strengthen community and encourage bystander intervention.

Over the subsequent weeks following the report’s release, meetings were scheduled with students, activists, lawyers and survivors to brief the Vice President, members of Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Department of Education and the Department of Justice. Lynn Rosenthal, the White House Advisor on Violence against Women, spearheaded the process. Pictured above, is the February kick-off meeting with Vice President Joe Biden, with student leaders and advocates from across the country. Once the cameras left, the Vice President and his advisors listened to each participant give recommendations about what policy, tools and programs students need, and what we want colleges to do.

In April, the Office of Science and Technology Policy hosted  a “Data Jam” spearheaded by Vivian Graubard and Erie Meyer challenging activists and technologists to work with publicly available data. In informal teams and working with 103 data sets on the Clery Act, Title IX and more, we worked quickly to prototype mobile or web-based solutions to targeted problems. I presented new findings about Circle of 6 and conversations the app is sparking. Since the Data Jam some great ideas are now in development, including a men’s intervention tool and a college ranking app that includes sexual assault information.

Yesterday was the culmination of these efforts and the launch of the White House website NotAlone.gov. This new site is a compendium of resources, programs, data and maps for students to know their rights, for administrations to know their obligation to their students and for young people to find help. The Vice President gave a passionate speech denouncing rape and rape culture, calling out the need for verbal and affirmative consent, and charging young men to step up and intervene. Additionally, in an important clarification, the Department of Education announced that Title IX protects transgender students. We are thrilled that the collective efforts of so many brilliant bloggers and students put The Line Campaign on this comprehensive website.

As a survivor, filmmaker, advocate and app developer, I bring my opinions, personal experience and values to the work. “The Line” and this campaign is adamantly sex-positive, challenging victim-blaming and slut shaming, and the blog was founded, staffed and run by queer and diverse voices. “The Line” film has been shared with thousands of students across the country, and most recently hundreds of soldiers at Ft. Meade Army Base. The film and campaign continue to spark dialogue about consent and boundaries around the world. The mobile extension of this work, Circle of 6 is on now on 120,000 phones in 32 countries. Currently, we are partnering with colleges to customize Circle of 6 for their needs.

I’m deeply honored to work with great collaborators to push boundaries and create complex conversations about sexuality and human rights that inform discussions with students, administrators, the Department of Defense and the White House. Our leaders are following through on their promises, and putting the time, effort and energy into the health, well-being and rights of our students. For that, I am deeply grateful. We’re poised to see real cultural and behavioral change occur on college campuses, and eager to see the positive effects ripple into all of our communities.

 

How can we use social media to confront and document gender-based violence?

by Jamie J. Hagen

The Line Campaign and Circleof6 are both excellent examples of how the changing landscape of social media confronts violence against women in new and inventive ways. Our very own Nancy Schwartzman spoke last month on a panel, as part of the 16 Days Campaign Against Gender Violence.

George Washington University’s Global Women’s Institute hosted the panel discussion “The Role of Media and Social Media in Preventing Violence Against Women and Girls” with Nancy Schwartzman along with panelists Liriel Higa, social media strategist at Half the Sky Movement, Shawna Potter, founder of Hollaback Baltimore, Nancy Schwartzman, executive director of the The Line Campaign and developer of Circle of 6; and Caroline D’Angelo, social media editor at The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. All four of the women on the panel brought different elements of social media outreach to the table including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and phone apps.

Liriel Higa discussed how Half the Sky harnesses the power of celebrity and “actress-advocates” to bring attention to violence against women globally. For example, Meg Ryan traveled with the Half the Sky documentary crew to Cambodia to shine a light on sex slavery in the country. However, it’s important to realize that one of the most prominent voices behind Half the Sky is NYT’s columnist Nicholas Kristof whose reporting has garnered much backlash about foreign coverage of poverty and discussion of the White Savior Industrial Complex.

Both the Hollaback app and the Circleof6 app are working as harm reduction tools. Schwartzman sees the ability to get more people involved through social media especially important when it comes to the involvement of men. The Hollaback app is available for free download to then report street crime as it happens where all reports are then vetted by local chapters. As Shawana Potter explains, mobile technology and social media now offer ways to, “leverage technology to bring voice to an issue that historically has been silenced.”

The panelists also addressed ways journalists can better prepare and protect sources during and after they share their stories. Caroline D’Angelo of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting encouraged training for reporters covering rape and sex crimes, and mentioned the work of the Poynter Center as a valuable resource for journalism ethics in the digital age. During the panel Schwartzman importantly shared her own story of rape and confronting her rapist documented in the movie she directed, The Line. Schwartzman and moderator Frank Sesno discussed how her experience with rape led the activism she now engages in with the The Line and the Circleof6 app.

“But how is social media really evolving journalism?” Sesno wanted to know. D’Angelo explained traditionally women are under-sourced for stories, even those stories about abortion and gender, as illustrated by the gender gap in coverage this 2012 election season. Mary Ellsberg, the director of the Global Women’s Institute concluded social media is evolving our ability to tell stories because now, “women get to frame the story.”

Watch the event streaming hereincluding the panel discussion and a Q & A.

We’re looking for Interns!

It’s that time of year! The Line Campaign is currently seeking a Social Media & Blog Editor, as well as an intern specifically to support Nancy’s work with Girl Model. Check out the descriptions below the jump, and please forward widely!

(more…)

What can you do to make a difference?

 

We at the The Line Campaign encourage you to speak up about your sexuality: your desires, your boundaries and your right to pleasure and safety! Speak up without shame, and we will listen to you without judgments.

Bring Nancy to your campus to spark this conversation where it most needs to happen!

Roll Call: The Truth about VAWA

We are re-posting this great Op-Ed from Roll Call from our friend and colleague, Lori Weinstein of Jewish Women International and co-author, Patricia Martin is president of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. We think the powers that be listened!

Rates of domestic and sexual violence in the United States have amounted to a crisis that must be urgently addressed. Nearly one in five women has been raped in her lifetime, while one in four women has been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner.

These devastating figures require a strong response — and the immediate reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act is an important first step.

S. 1925 is a strong, bipartisan, filibuster-proof bill that will reauthorize VAWA for another five years and build on effective programs to meet the changing needs of victims. This legislation, introduced by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), has 61 co-sponsors, including eight Republicans. Senate leadership is bringing VAWA to the floor this week, demonstrating Congress’ commitment to ending violence against women and girls.

But many well-intentioned Members of Congress have heard misstatements about VAWA, and opponents are developing an alternative bill that will undercut the spirit of the law. It is imperative that we address these inaccuracies so every Senator understands what VAWA really does in communities across the country and so every Senator can support S. 1925 without harmful amendments.

VAWA saves lives and money — $12.6 billion in its first six years alone. VAWA-funded programs have improved the national response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. The lion’s share of VAWA funding, about $400 million annually, ends up in local communities supporting law enforcement, prosecution, courts and victim services. Since its passage in 1994, all states have strengthened rape laws and the number of individuals killed by an intimate partner has decreased by 34 percent for women and 57 percent for men.

Critics allege that VAWA grantees misspent millions of dollars and S. 1925 lacks strict accounting policies. But a letter from Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich explains that concerns about the grants in question have been successfully resolved.

Advocacy groups and victim service providers support the bill’s audit provisions, which are almost word for word the accountability provisions developed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in the Victims of Trafficking Act.

Critics claim the Leahy-Crapo bill gives immigrants a new way to enter the country. However, provisions to protect immigrant victims have been in place since 1994. Any immigrant victim seeking a U visa under VAWA not only must provide evidence of victimization but also must obtain a signed form from a law enforcement officer or prosecutor certifying that the immigrant victim cooperated with officials and assisted in bringing the perpetrator to justice.

Critics claim S. 1925 contains provisions that would force all domestic violence and sexual assault programs to serve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender victims or be charged with discrimination. In reality, S. 1925 has a provision that tells states they may fund services specifically targeted to LGBT victims. These targeted services are badly needed. Only 1.5 percent of all victim services in this country are LGBT-specific, and a majority of victim service providers working with LGBT clients report that their clients have been denied services because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

The Justice Department reports that one in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime and that Native American women suffer from violent crime at a rate three and a half times greater than the national average. Yet critics say S. 1925 violates the Constitution by giving tribal courts the authority to punish non-Native Americans for committing domestic violence on tribal lands. In fact, S. 1925 requires that any tribal court exercising jurisdiction over non-Native Americans must show that it offers similar constitutional protections afforded to defendants in state criminal courts.

The passage of S. 1925 sends a strong message to victims throughout the country whose lives have been forever changed: We will never return to the pre-VAWA world where there was no help and no hope. A vote for the Leahy-Crapo reauthorization bill says unequivocally to all victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, “We will help you wherever you are and whenever you need help.”

Patricia Martin is president of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Lori Weinstein is executive director of Jewish Women International.

Circle of 6: One (Mobile) Piece of the Anti-Violence Puzzle

Going into the creation of Circle of 6, we knew we had to tread carefully. Too much sexual assault “awareness” is focused on telling women and girls what to do and what not to do: don’t drink too much, don’t leave without a buddy, don’t wear that skirt, don’t flirt, don’t laugh, don’t smile. We didn’t want to replicate those messages.

But what we did need to do was meet people where they were: we know people party and get separated from each other and that friends leave bars alone and stumble home late. Often, someone is stuck making the hard choice of how to get home safely, especially if they have no idea how to tell their friend where they are. In an ideal world, this wouldn’t be a problem—we would all be safe everywhere, at any time. But we don’t live in an ideal world, so Circle of 6’s MMS and GPS location tools let users quickly and easily contact six trusted friends to come pick them up.

Another thing we can all relate to is being cornered – someone is not reading your cues that you’d like to leave, your friends don’t see you making faces that plead with them to get you out of this corner. Two taps – and your phone rings, and you’re out of there. In other words, the Circle of 6 App is designed to be a tool to leverage tight knit social networks and harnesses mobile tech in helpful ways.

We were very careful in the video we produced to make sure that no one could say “well, why would a young girl find herself alone at a party, that’s bad judgement” – or “why would a girl let herself get separated from her friends?” We’re not telling people not to go to parties alone, or not to drink, or not to talk to strangers. We know that most sexual violence is perpetrated by someone the victim knows. What we care about is giving young people a tool to help them get out of a situation that makes them uncomfortable and that might escalate into something dangerous, regardless of whether they are alone, among strangers, or with their partner.

The bottom line is, many, many students who come up to us after screenings of The Line and share their rape stories have several things in common – they could have used the help of their friends to get them out of situations that a perpetrator was exploiting. In our work, and ISIS’s work with dating violence, we know that people suffer in isolation, so providing resources and embedding the information into the app itself can break that silence. Circle of 6 seeks to address this need–connectivity, communication, technology are just one way to prevent future assaults.

No one tool—be it an app, an anti-violence training, or a conversation about consent—will end sexual assault. The solution to sexual violence is a complicated puzzle, and Circle of 6 is just a single piece addressing a particular context of violence. It will not single-handedly end assault, nor is it meant to. We need many more tools–and many more puzzle pieces–before we can begin to talk about the end of sexual violence as we know it.

We welcome your feedback and partnership in building those tools and creating a world without sexual violence.

Circle of 6 iPhone App Launches Today!

“Thanks to the creativity of these developers, young people now have a new line of defense against violence in their lives.” – Vice President Joe Biden

We’re so excited to announce that Circle of 6, the free anti-violence app  is launching TODAY, March 20th!

Dating violence and sexual assault are widespread problems among young women, with nearly 1 in 5 reporting assault while in college. With only two taps, Circle of 6 connects users threatened with possible sexual assault and abuse to a network of trusted friends, using GPS technology, anti-violence online resources, and a commitment to support each other: “I won’t let violence happen in my circle.”

We are thrilled by the great press we’ve received so far from: Cosmopolitan, MTV Act, The Christian Science Monitor, The NY Daily News, Cult of Mac and more!

We’re incredibly proud of this all volunteer, 100% DIY, feminist project! Our team includes me, Nancy Schwartzman, Deb Levine of ISIS-Inc., Thomas Cabus our designer and Christine Corbett-Moran, our developer. Check out our anti-violence resources, Circle of 6 video, and iPhone download at circleof6app.com.

Please help us spread the word! On Twitter, use the hashtag #C6, or use one of these pre-written tweets:

Prevent sexual violence with @circleof6app, the free, award-winning app from @thelinecampaign & @ISISorg #c6 www.circleof6app.com

Apps Against #Abuse contest winner @Circleof6app has launched! Pledge to never let violence happen in yr circle: www.circleof6app.com #C6

.@VP Biden says @Circleof6app is “a new line of defense against violence” for young people. Get it free at www.circleof6app.com #c6 #fem2

On a date that just won’t end with someone who’s giving you the creeps? Use @Circleof6app to get out safely: www.circleof6app.com #C6 #fem2

Never get separated from your friends on a night out: @Circleof6app uses GPS 2 help u find each other & stay safe. www.circleof6app.com #C6

.@Circleof6app puts your friends at your fingertips, helping you stay close & prevent violence b4 it happens circleof6app.com #C6

 

Invisible War

(This is a guest post by Holly Kearl. Holly is an activist and non-profit professional whose work focuses on gender-based violence and street harassment. Find out more about her at her website. It was cross-posted on Ms. Magazine Blog)

On January 22nd, I attended both a screening of The Invisible War at the Sundance Film Festival and a survivor- speak-out afterward. I can’t stop thinking about what I saw and heard.

Prior to seeing the film, I knew about the epidemic of sexual assault in the military. I’d read the alarming statistics. The Department of Defense estimates that during 2010, there were up to 19,000 women raped in the military. Twenty percent of female veterans were raped by their coworkers either when they were recruits or as active duty members.  One percent of men in the military are raped each year.

Not only is rape epidemic in the military, but prosecution is low and retaliation against survivors is high.  For example, of the few reported rapes, only 8 percent are ever prosecuted and only 2 percent end in conviction. Since perpetrators tend to be repeat offenders, the lack of penalty means the vast majority of rapists can continue raping – both their coworkers in their military and members of their community when they are home. This is an outrage.

While I knew these statistics, I didn’t know or connect with the stories of the survivors until yesterday.

Intending to make the military their career, during the film most of the survivors featured sadly shared how they left the military after their assaults. Even though they love the military, every one of them said they would not recommend the military as a career to any other woman until significant structural changes occur to make the military safer.

Each survivor described their feelings of betrayal for being assaulted by their military “brothers,” and how traumatizing it was to face retaliation from the military (some of the women were even put under investigation and charged with adultery because their assailants claimed the rape was consensual and were married men). The frustration of inadequate health care, therapy, and support was another common theme.

One of the survivors is Trina McDonald, a Navy officer, was drugged and raped repeatedly by other officers on a remote base in Alaska. During the survivor speak-out, we were horrified to hear that during her therapy at the Veterans Affairs (VA), she was told to record what happened to her in great detail and then play that every day until she became desensitized to the trauma. She stopped replaying her tape when the “therapy” made her suicidal. She asked members of the Utah VA present at the speak-out to please do what they could to stop that harmful treatment.

Another survivor is Coast Guard recruit Kori Cioca. Her rapist dislocated her jaw and the VA has yet to provide medical coverage to fix it. Instead they proscribed an alarming amount of drugs, which Cioca displays in the documentary. During the speak-out, she described how one insensitive doctor questioned why she was there and then tried to pry her mouth open with his hands, jammed a mirror in her mouth and only stopped when she got up and left; her pleas to not touch her falling on deaf ears.

Witnessing the impact the rapes and assaults had on the survivors’ family members both in the film and at the speak-out was devastating. Many of the women were married to members of the military or had fathers serving. Most of the men left once they found out what happened and to this day and their every-day life is forever changed as they work to help their loved ones recover their health, their dignity, their life. It was their tears that moved me to tears. I am not a survivor of sexual assault but I know too well the same feeling of helplessness of trying to make things better for loved ones who are survivors and who are in so much pain. Not everything was sad, however. There were messages of hope everywhere. The film showed dedicated members of Congress working to create and pass a legislative fix. We saw brave survivors, including Cicoca, and their lawyer Susan Burke sue the Department of Defense for violating their constitutional rights. And even though the district court judge dismissed the case last month, ruling that rape in the military is an occupational hazard for which you cannot sue the government, they are appealing the decision. The love the survivors’ families show them was also a positive force throughout the film.

During the survivor speak-out, more hope emerged. Survivor after survivor said that working with film producer Amy Ziering was better therapy than anything they went through at the VA because she actually let them talk and listened to their stories without cutting them off or dismissing them. One survivor from Salt Lake City who was not in the film but simply heard about the event and decided to attend said that 90 minutes of watching the film did more good for her than had her years of therapy with VA therapists.

The survivors said once they began working on the film, it was heartening to know they weren’t alone in dealing with these issues. They now had a band of people who had gone through it too and with whom they could advocate for a better military. The film was a turning point for many of them and also a way to reclaim their voices. They hoped it could be a turning point for all the survivors who view the film.

Some of the spouses of survivors spoke at the session too, and they said how cathartic it was to be part of the film. One husband of a survivor said, “It’s hard to know where you can make a difference in the world” but that the film showed him how he and his wife can: by speaking out and advocating for changes.

You don’t just have to be a survivor or the loved one of a survivor to make a difference. If you want to do something, please:

It will take all of our voices to ensure that the military does the right thing.

 

 

 

Consent 101: M.I.T

What is sexual consent? Where do we draw the line? How do we negotiate consent in our daily lives–in our sexuality, relationships, and the millions of other choices we face in our day to day lives? What is it that makes us say “yes” and what makes us say “no”–and how do we let people know and respect our decisions?

I screened The Line at M.I.T. and asked them!

Mutual respect, care and pleasure.

We don’t necessarily have to be in love, but you will respect me and treat me like the goddess that I am.

Know what it means to enjoy sex–then you know what you want.

Being fully conscious of what I am doing.

Sex is fabulous! But it better be as fabulous for me as it is for you.

Yes in bed does not mean yes in the park.

Ask me before you put it ANYWHERE.

 

Consent 101: Hunter College

What is sexual consent? Where do we draw the line? How do we negotiate consent in our daily lives–in our sexuality, relationships, and the millions of other choices we face in our day to day lives? What is it that makes us say “yes” and what makes us say “no”–and how do we let people know and respect our decisions?

I screened The Line at Hunter College and asked them!

 

I don’t know. As a male, I didn’t know I was allowed to have one.

Wherever I decide it is. Not you. Not my parents. Not my religion. Not my culture.

Changes every second, minute, hour, day–and with every person.

It changes. I’m learning to tell you, but please ask me!

Understanding the implications of my actions.

It’s mutual. No one is entitled to my body.

Ask me “Is this okay?” as we go. IT DOESN’T KILL THE MOOD. IT TURNS ME ON!

Have the respect to ask me and don’t judge me for saying no.

Wherever, whenever, and wherever I say it is.

 

 

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