ifIknew

ifIknew is a health initiative for young adults that uses a multi media approach, including social media and in person programs, to address the contemporary issues that impact the well-being, self-image, careers, and relationships of people in their 20's and 30's.

If I Knew is a prevention education project that raises awareness about risky behaviors that can profoundly impact lives.

Filtering by Tag: sexual assault

Freedom...with a warning label.

It’s the time of year when there is an uptick in the number of alcohol overdoses occurring on campuses across the country. Newfound freedom for freshmen often seems to take the form of the freedom to drink with abandon. But the body has its natural limits. Binge drinking can lead to an overdose or what is otherwise called alcohol poisoning.  This happens when someone drinks more rapidly than his or her body can metabolize. Alcohol’s intoxicating property, ETOH, goes straight to the brain, hence the buzz. The alcohol builds up in the bloodstream and depresses the part of the brain that controls involuntary actions like breathing and physical coordination.  It can cause the drinker to lose consciousness.  At this point  the drinker is at high risk to choke on his or her own vomit, stop breathing, have irregular, slow, or fast heartbeats, brain damage, hypothermia or hypoglycemia (which can lead to a seizure), or death.  Someone who survives an overdose can still suffer irreversible brain damage.

The difficulty in defending oneself against unwanted sexual advances when intoxicated accounts for a high percentage of  rapes, that are reported or go unreported on campuses each year.

College is so much more than drinking.   Find the student activities director on campus and ask for a list of non-drinking fun alternatives around town. Join clubs that may interest you or will advance your social life or future career. Join an intramural sports team.   Constructive activities abound – and it’s much more fun to wake up with a great memory than to have no memory, regrets, or find yourself in the hospital.

What Happened Last Night?

You’re confused, nauseous, dizzy, and embarrassed so you quickly get dressed and slip out of the house. Back at your own place, you sleep a while longer and then ask your friends why they ditched you. To your surprise, they never saw you. The twenty unopened texts confirm their claims. Pretty sure you had sex, you lie in bed for the rest of the day trying to figure out what to do. Finally, on Sunday, your friend’s sister convinces you to go the hospital and tell them that you’ve been raped. Sadly, it’s too late. The Rohypnol used to drug you is already out of your system and your attacker didn’t leave evidence because he (thankfully) used a condom. Going out tonight? Protect yourself.

  • If someone wants to buy you a drink, go with them to the bar and watch it being poured.
  • If you only had one drink and you feel drunk, call 911 or get help immediately.
  • Don’t leave your drink unattended. If you do, dump it!
  • Open your own bottles.
  • Don’t take a drink from someone else.
  • Avoid community drinks.
  • Stay away from punch bowls.
  • If it tastes or smells funny or different, then it probably is!

Have your designated driver keep an eye out for those who are drinking and what everyone is drinking as well.

Resources: National Directory of Rape Crises Centers Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE

Coming Forward

We’ve all seen the news by now.  Penn State University fired legendary head football coach, Joe Paterno, after one of his longtime coaches, Jerry Sandusky, was arrested for alleged multiple instances of sexual assault on children. The investigation indicates that after Paterno became aware of the suspected abuse, he reported it to his supervisor but failed to notify the police.  Football is a major part of Penn State’s campus culture and thousands of students vented their anger about Joe Paterno’s dismissal by rioting and in doing that seemed to be forgetting about the children who had been victims of abuse. Most media have been focusing on investigating the reaction of students and the fall of an icon, which has overshadowed the stories of the survivors who have courageously taken a stand. Even in low profile sexual assault cases, survivors are often ignored or scoffed at. So, can you imagine coming forward and publicly admitting that you were sexually assaulted under these circumstances and with national attention?

One person is sexually assaulted in the United States every two minutes. 44% of victims are under 18 years of age. 1 out of 6 American women will be the targets of attempted or completed rape at least once in their lifetime. This means that survivors of sexual assault are always all around us, even if they are silent about their histories. And, unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a perpetrator to be a trusted member of one’s community – in fact, approximately 2/3rd of survivors knew their perpetrators before the instance of sexual assault. Most perpetrators have hurt scores of others and will continue to do so, if the abuse is not reported and stopped.

Once more details of the story and the allegations were released, the Penn State student body began to understand the human tragedy that had taken place there and shifted their focus. Students showed support for the victims by holding a candlelight vigil and devoted a moment of silence before their final home game. It is imperative to that each of us channel the feelings of anger, violation, confusion and distrust that these allegations have stirred in many of us to focus on helping survivors in our community heal. How can we do this? For one, we should always listen and give survivors the benefit of the doubt if they choose to come forward. It may be difficult for us to hear that the perpetrator might have been someone we respected and that he or she is not the person we had thought. Still, we have to remember that the survivor is struggling much more than we are as listeners.

If the survivor is an adult who was just recently attacked, you can encourage him or her to go to the hospital to get help, including  a physical examination as well as an evaluation and treatment for STDS and HIV. You can also get find help from some of the resources listed under Get Help on ifIknew.org.  Some survivors may choose report the assault to the police or social services immediately, whereas others might not feel safe taking legal action right away. We may understand that the sooner a survivor goes to the police the greater the chances of preventing someone else from becoming their victim, but as a friend and listener, it is important to respect how that survivor chooses to handle the situation. Just being there and validating the survivor’s experience and feelings often helps him or her regain the strength and ability to move forward and address the situation.

If you have reason to suspect a child, maybe a friend, is being abused, report the abuse to an adult you trust or to the department of social services or the police. Certain professionals are legally mandated to report abuse but even if you don't fall within that mandate, remember that children depend on adults and people they trust to protect them and keep them safe. To learn more about reporting abuse and neglect in Maryland, click here.

Let's all keep coming forward and standing up for the victims of abuse and assault.

Baltimore Slutwalk

On September 17th, hundreds of women are expected to show up in West Shore Park (a stretch of grass in between the Maryland Science Center and the Visitor Center at the Inner Harbor) wearing revealing shirts, stilettos and hot pants. They will be proudly proclaiming themselves as “sluts” in protest against the prevailing notion that dressing provocatively is an invitation to be raped. Slutwalk Baltimore is just one event in a growing international movement to increase dialogue and raise awareness about prevalent attitudes in our society that blame the survivor in sexual assault cases. The first Slutwalk was hosted this past spring in Toronto as a response to a police officer’s public statement in which he claimed that women should stop dressing like “sluts” if they want to avoid sexual harassment, rape and/or assault. Many audience members were furious. They believed that “slut-shaming” further encourages both the legal system and the public to blame survivors rather than to place legal and moral responsibility onto the perpetrators of violence. No survivor ever wants to be raped or sexually assaulted, even if she happens to be “slutty.” Protesters pointed to statistics estimating that 15 out of 16 rapists walk free and only 6% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail, largely because courts rarely convict accused rapists, and survivors of sexual assault are discouraged from reporting their crimes.

Slutwalk has spread to cities across the world. Slutwalk organizers and participants believe in reclaiming the word “slut” as an empowering expression of uninhibited sexuality in a world where violence against women, sex workers, and lgbt individuals is normalized. This has raised a number of questions and concerns. Many are critical of the Slutwalk movement for pressuring survivors to willingly accept the term “slut” as a part of their empowerment.  Many survivors do not feel comfortable or safe reclaiming this slur which has been violently used against them. Some critics feel that promoting “slutty” behavior among participants of Slutwalk encourages unhealthy and disempowering behavior, in addition to further perpetuating the hypersexualization of women’s bodies. They are additionally concerned that Slutwalk projects shame onto those who choose to be abstinent and/or modest.

Is reframing the word “slut,” a word that has been used to attack and label “loose” women, more empowering than rejecting the word completely? What messages do you believe Slutwalk sends to the general public? Sound off below!

Rhianna’s “Man Down:” Pop Music, Revenge, and Violence Against Women

Recently pop star Rihanna released the music video for her new reggae-inspired hit “Man Down.” In this video, Rihanna’s character struggles with her decision to murder a man who rapes her. Unsurprisingly, this video has already been the target of controversy. Many critics believe that “Man Down” should be immediately banned for promoting unnecessary retaliatory violence. These critics are concerned that instead of using her celebrity to encourage victims of rape and sexual assault against women to seek help, Rhianna is encouraging victims to perpetuate further acts of unnecessary violence. Rhianna has also been accused of trying to profit from a sexualized display of violence against women.  Meanwhile, other viewers welcome the video as a critical protest in a music culture where rape and violence against women are often glorified and celebrated. How many times have you turned on the radio and heard lyrics about beating up or having sex with “bitches” and “hoes?” While Rhianna’s fans hopefully do not condone murdering perpetrators, they compliment “Man Down” for stimulating dialogue about rape, an issue that is often silenced and/or ignored in popular culture.

Rihanna herself is a survivor of domestic violence. Rihanna’s personal story and celebrity status further complicate the controversy over “Man Down.” Sharing one’s story is often an empowering act for survivors of gender violence. Should any celebrity, especially a celebrity who is in the process of healing, be asked to censor herself when addressing such a sensitive, personal issue? Why is a victim like Rhianna the target of controversy, when other violent, murderous images can be seen all over mainstream media?  Is violence in the media ever justifiable? What do you think? Sound off below!

What Happened Last Night?

You found the perfect outfit.  Your hair and makeup is done just right.  You can’t stop smiling because it’s Friday night and you are ready for a good time.  As you approach the club, your heart starts to beat in time with the pounding music seeping out through the doors.  Just the idea of the fun you could have within those four walls gives you butterflies.  Once inside, you get your drink and pull out your phone to see where your friends are.   You put your drink down to answer a text and the next thing you know, you’re waking up with no memory of the previous night.  You’re in some frat house you’ve never seen with people you’ve never met.  You wonder how you could have blacked out if you only had one drink.  You’ve been “roofied.” You’re confused, nauseous, dizzy, and embarrassed so you quickly get dressed and slip out of the house.  Back at your own place, you sleep awhile longer and then ask your friends why they ditched you.  To your surprise, they never saw you.  The twenty unopened texts confirm their claims.  Pretty sure you had sex, you lie in bed for the rest of the day trying to figure out what to do.  Finally, on Sunday, your friend’s sister convinces you to go the hospital and tell them that you’ve been raped.  Sadly, it’s too late.  The Rohypnol used to drug you is already out of your system and your attacker didn’t leave evidence because he (thankfully) used a condom.

Going out tonight? Protect yourself.

  • If someone wants to buy you a drink, go with them to the bar and watch it being poured.
  • If you only had one drink and you feel drunk, call 911 or get help immediately
  • Don’t leave your drink unattended.  If you do, dump it!
  • Open your own bottles.
  • Don’t take a drink from someone else.
  • Avoid community drinks.
  • Stay away from punch bowls.
  • If it tastes or smells funny or different, then it probably is!

Have your designated driver keep an eye out for those who are drinking (but the same rules apply for them!  They shouldn’t leave a soda can unattended either!)

There’s an old PSA tagline that stated, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”  The same is true for letting a friend leave a bar, club, or party with a stranger – especially while intoxicated.  Friends who are under the influence can be very persuasive and stubborn.  It’s better to have your friend mad at you for a moment than to live with the idea that you could have done something to prevent a tragedy.

Resources: National Directory of Rape Crises Centers Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE