So Yes Means Yes, But How Do I Ask?

This blog post was originally published on June 16, 2015.

Photo:
Photo: “Communication” by Joan M. Mass, Flickr Creative Commons.

As many of us know, UNC-Chapel Hill adopted a new affirmative consent standard in August 2014, meaning that, rather than “no means no,” UNC enforces a “yes means yes” standard—where consent is defined as the clearly conveyed, enthusiastic, conscious, non-coerced “yes.” It is the responsibility of person initiating the activity to receive affirmative consent, and being under the influence of drugs or alcohol does not lessen that responsibility. Consent can’t be treated as binding; if your partner and you say that next Friday you plan to have sex, you should still check in with your partner next Friday to make sure they consent. If, next Friday, your partner decides they do not consent, you cannot try to hold them to what they said the week before or make them feel guilty in any way for changing their mind. Also, consent to one activity is not consent to another (so, for example, consent to oral sex is not consent to vaginal sex).

I’ve found in my experience conducting One Act trainings that a lot of students struggle to understand the affirmative consent standard, and have a lot of questions about how it works in practice. Many of us are much more comfortable relying on body language, so enforcing a policy that heavily relies on verbal communication can be daunting.

But how do I ask? Won’t it kill the mood? Isn’t that awkward? Don’t you just know when someone wants to have sex? Is it really necessary to ask permission every step of the way? Does this mean that anytime I don’t explicitly ask permission, they can just regret it and call it rape?

Those are all questions I’ve been asked, on several occasions, by several students. A lot of those questions stem from a “but I just want to have sex” mindset, when the mindset should revolve around what both you and your partner enjoy doing. Affirmative consent isn’t about making things awkward, it’s about making sure your partner really does want to do what you want to do.

So how do you ask? Here are some suggestions:

“I’d really like to do ____, do you want to?”

“How do you feel about trying/doing   ____?”

“Does this feel good to you?”

“Are you interested in doing ___?”

“Are you enjoying this?”

“I like doing _____. What do you like to do?”

The possibilities are endless, so have fun with it! Remember that sex should be an ongoing conversation, where you check in with your partner to make sure they are excited about and are enjoying everything that is happening.

But what about just knowing when someone is consenting to sex? Why this change? Why use an affirmative consent standard, when, for years, relying on body language has been considered acceptable?

It’s simple: there has been new research  that indicates people are likely to freeze up when they feel scared, threatened, or traumatized. While most of us are familiar with flight or fight, there is actually this third chemical reaction in our brains – “freeze.” Because of neurobiology, people may not be able to speak up and say “let’s stop,” so they just disengage and wait for it to be over. Using an affirmative consent standard takes into account what happens in our bodies on a cellular level. Beyond biology, social norms may impact some a person’s ability to speak up. Statements like “maybe later,” “I’m tired,” “not right now,” “let’s just watch a movie,” or even silence are indicators that a person doesn’t actually want to have sex, despite none of those being an explicit “no.”

If you ask someone if they want to have sex with you (or do any other activity) and they say no, you didn’t “kill the mood.” You simply gave that person an opportunity to tell you that they didn’t want to have sex. Rejection usually doesn’t feel good, but neither does hurting someone. Affirmative consent is sexy. So play around with how you ask for consent, figure out what way is most comfortable to you, and practice good communication with your partner(s)! Being able to talk about what you are interested in doing together gets easier, and affirmative consent is sexy! Remember: even if you do find it awkward, a few seconds of feeling awkward is worth preventing harming someone.

If you’re worried that your partner may confuse regret with sexual assault, here is a great blog explaining why that likely won’t happen.

Can you think of any more ways to ask for consent? Post below in the comments!

Safety on the safe.unc.edu website

Have you ever wondered about the bright green “leave website now” button in the top right corner of the SAFE website?

safe website

This button is a safeguard for individuals who are experiencing violence or abuse. Abusers often control the types of information and resources their partner can access, including information about getting help. It may not be safe for someone who has a controlling partner to be browsing a website where there’s information about how to get help. Learn more about controlling behaviors here.

  • The button lets them leave the site in 1 click if the abuser enters the room or looks over their shoulder.
  • You’ll find a similar button on other websites that serve victims of violence, such as the local domestic violence agency, Compass Center for Women and Families:
    http://compassctr.org/get-help/domestic-violence/safety-planning/

If you suspect that it may not be safe for you to look at websites on getting help, be sure to clear your browser history. Click on this link for additional tips from the National Network to End Domestic Violence for staying safe online when you are in a violent or controlling relationships.

Visit the Get Help Now Section of the SAFE website for even more information about getting help for sexual or interpersonal violence or stalking.

If you’re not feeling safe in your relationship, help is available through both confidential and private resources. Everyone has a right to a safe and loving relationship.

 

Kelli is the Coordinator for Violence Prevention Programs at UNC Student Wellness. Kelli has a Master of Arts degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs from The Ohio State University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from The College of William and Mary in Women’s Studies. Kelli believes we can prevent sexual violence, interpersonal violence, stalking, harassment, and discrimination by changing systems of oppression, empowering bystanders, supporting survivors, and holding individuals accountable for their problematic behavior.

Conversation Starts with Listening

by Will McInerney

All too often, we tend to mistake hearing for listening.

Hearing is a physiological process by which sound waves are processed and passed along from our ears to our brains. Listening is a more complicated psychological process by which we comprehend, create meaning, and apply understanding. (2) Listening engages empathy and connection. This process asks us to be introspective and to challenge ourselves. Listening looks like putting your phone away during a conversation. Listening means you are not formulating a rebuttal or counterpoint while the other is talking, rather you are thinking deeply about what they are saying and taking time to process the information.

Listen
“Listen” by Ky. Flikr Creative Commons.

As a community we need to deepen our commitment to whole-heartedly listening to survivors and to the professionals who work and advocate on these issues.

October is Relationship Violence Awareness Month (RVAM). During this month (as well as every other month) it is important that we work to hone our listening skills, foster conversations, and catalyze action.

Relationship violence takes many forms (including but not limited to physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual, economic, and verbal) and affects a significant percentage of college-aged individuals. (1) RVAM is a time of year when we seek to shine light on this issue and work to create a safer, more accountable, and inclusive campus for all faculty, staff, and students.

One way we can do this is by having more open and honest conversations. Through conversation, we seek to elicit action, foster change, and create impact. But when having conversations it’s also important that we take special note to truly listen, especially to those directly affected.

Every year during RVAM, Project Dinah hosts a Speak Out event. During this event, members of the Carolina community read anonymous posting detailing the experiences of survivors. These accounts, collected and archived on the site http://speakoutunc.blogspot.com, are a prime example of the stories we should be listening to, learning from, and considering when discussing relationship violence on our campus. (3)

On October 22nd, a collection of UNC organizations will be hosting a Coffee and Conversation event surrounding Relationship Violence in the Anne Queen Lounge of the Campus Y from 5 to 6:30pm.

A panel of professionals from Student Wellness, Equal Opportunity & Compliance Office, Carolina Women’s Center, Compass Center for Women and Children, and the Dean of Students Office will speak and help facilitate group discussions. This is an opportunity for us to engage, to speak, and to challenge our community and ourselves to take tangible steps to reduce violence and listen to survivors.

For more information you can check out the Facebook event page HERE.

RVAM is a month for introspection, for challenging conversations, and for action. Let’s use this opportunity to listen to survivors and engage in constructive dialogue. Join the conversation and let your voice be heard.

If you would like to learn more about active listening and supporting survivors, you can also check out the free online Haven program provided by Student Wellness by clicking HERE.

Check out the RVAM schedule below and click HERE for more UNC RVAM events.

List of events for RVAM 

Sources

  1. http://www.loveisrespect.org/pdf/Dating_Abuse_Statistics.pdf
  2. http://study.com/academy/lesson/hearing-vs-listening-importance-of-listening-skills-for-speakers.html
  3. http://speakoutunc.blogspot.com/
  4. http://rvam.web.unc.edu/rvam-event-schedule/

 

Will McInerney has worked with the campus wide initiative to increase men’s involvement in gender equity efforts and violence prevention since its inception. He partners with students, faculty, and staff to promote positive, inclusive, and non-violent masculinities.

Will is also a writer, performer, and consultant specializing in Middle East and North Africa-based conflict zones. His work has been featured on National Public Radio, Al Jazeera, American Public Media, and recently at the International Storytelling Center. Will earned his Bachelor of Arts in Peace, War, and Defense from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

5 Tips for Speaking Up to a Professor

Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place: a revered professor has just perpetuated a rape myth (e.g. an unfounded statement that rationalizes and justifies sexual assault) and it’s only week five. What do you do now? Drop the class? Let it go?

These might be the easiest solutions, but we know that by allowing rape myths to go unchallenged we are perpetuating an oppressive culture and contributing to the problem. But what can we say? And how do we say it?  It certainly isn’t an easy feat, but here are five tips to help you manage your way out of that tough spot.

1. Language.

When addressing the professor it is important to use respectful and constructive language. Address ze[1] by the title indicated to you in class – Professor _____, Dr. ______, or by ze’s first name, if that is ze’s preference. Similarly, try to refrain from using “you” statements, and focus on the use of “I” statements. For example, “I felt very uncomfortable by that comment” as opposed to “You made me feel uncomfortable.” It is also important to consider tone, as an aggressive tone may make the professor feel that ze is being accused or judged. These feelings may result in ze shutting down. However, respectful and constructive language allows us to create a safe conversation to influence positive change.

2. Timing

While it is important to address these behaviors when they are expressed since it may impact others, consider confronting the behavior privately. Perhaps you can stay after class to speak with the professor, or you could schedule to meet with them during office hours. By addressing the issue privately, the two of you will be able to discuss the comment without publicly shaming anyone, and how comments like that are detrimental to creating a safer Carolina.

3. Seeking Outside Assistance.

If you feel as though you are unable to speak with the professor, it may be best to seek assistance from another authority figure. Perhaps you will be comfortable going to another professor in the department, or to your own adviser. Additionally, should you ever feel unsafe speaking with a professor about the issue, contact a campus resource, like the confidential Ombuds Office or Gender Violence Services Coordinator, or the (private but not confidential) Equal Opportunity and Compliance office.

4. Suggest Education.

Knowledge is power! If you feel that someone is working with wrong information, invite ze to attend a training session, such as HAVEN. This will give ze a better knowledge base, as well as some skills to create a safe community. Trainings are available for both students and faculty, so don’t be worried about passing on some training dates.

5. Be Confident. (and go with a friend, if you need to)

It can be hard to confront an authority figure, and sometimes you may even second-guess your decision to do so. Do not be afraid to speak up! You know when something is wrong. Trust yourself and follow through. Chances are good that you aren’t the only one who noticed the problematic behavior or comment. Try asking a classmate what they thought and if the two of you seem to be equally uncomfortable, ask ze to go with you. It can be especially helpful to make plan in advance for what you will say together.

This is your community and you deserve to be safe. When someone – anyone – challenges that safety, you have the right to speak out. Change certainly isn’t easy, but it’s definitely worth it.

For more information on how you can create a safer Carolina, sign up for a One Act training!

 

[1] “Ze” is a gender-neutral pronoun. It can be used for people who do not identify on the gender binary (e.g. male or female).

Violence is a Men’s Issue

When reviewing crime statistics, a simple truth becomes apparent; male-identified individuals commit the VAST majority of all acts of violence in our society.

Yet, another truth remains; the majority of men don’t commit or condone violence. And many men and boys are subjected to some form of violence at the hands of other men. (1)

How do we reconcile these ideas? How do we play a role in reducing violence on our campus and in our communities back home? What are we going to do about this fundamental “men’s issue” that affects us all?

At Carolina there are a TON of resources including staff, faculty, classes, and student groups working to create a safer campus. You can find many of them at the SAFE.UNC.EDU website. (2)

Safe at UNC logo.

One of the resources available at UNC that is aimed directly at male-identified students is The UNC Men’s Project. The UNC Men’s Project is a new initiative started in 2013 that seeks to create opportunities for male-identified students to learn, listen, reflect, and work together to increase men’s involvement in gender equity and violence prevention efforts. The UNC Men’s project works to promote positive, healthy, inclusive, and non-violent masculinities.

The UNC Men’s Project recruits a core group of men on campus to participate in a 10-session program each semester that explores a spectrum of masculinities, examines how our own stories are shaped by masculinity, and gives participants the tools and knowledge to become peer allies, leaders, and educators in violence prevention and gender equity efforts at UNC.

Applications for the Fall Semester Men’s Project Cohort are Due September 22ndClick here to APPLY.

men's project

You should consider applying if you are interested in: 

  • joining a network of male-identified individuals interested in talking about masculinity and promoting positive masculinities;
  • gaining leadership skills;
  • learning about the impact of masculinity on ourselves and our society;
  • exploring your own story; and
  • becoming a trained ally and peer educator.

The UNC Men’s Project is committed to using an intersectional approach to discussing masculinity, and working with a diverse group of men who identify across the spectrum of sexuality and who come from different class, ability, racial, religious, and ethnic groups.

All currently enrolled male-identified UNC students (graduate and undergraduate) are welcome and encouraged to apply. (3)

To learn more about the UNC Men’s Project, check out their Website and consider applying today!

To learn more about all the other resources on campus that are working towards creating a safer and more equitable community, check out the Safe at UNC website.

With the leadership and support of a spectrum of groups, departments, and programs at UNC, let’s make this new school year a safer, more equitable, and inclusive experience for everyone.

Sources

  1. http://www.umass.edu/wost/syllabi/spring03/ToughGuise.pdf
  2. http://www.safe.unc.edu
  3. https://studentwellness.unc.edu/our-services/violence-prevention/unc-mens-project

So Yes Means Yes, But How Do I Ask?

Photo:
Photo: “Communication” by Joan M. Mass, Flickr Creative Commons.

As many of us know, UNC-Chapel Hill adopted a new affirmative consent standard in August 2014, meaning that, rather than “no means no,” UNC enforces a “yes means yes” standard—where consent is defined as the clearly conveyed, enthusiastic, conscious, non-coerced “yes.” It is the responsibility of person initiating the activity to receive affirmative consent, and being under the influence of drugs or alcohol does not lessen that responsibility. Consent can’t be treated as binding; if your partner and you say that next Friday you plan to have sex, you should still check in with your partner next Friday to make sure they consent. If, next Friday, your partner decides they do not consent, you cannot try to hold them to what they said the week before or make them feel guilty in any way for changing their mind. Also, consent to one activity is not consent to another (so, for example, consent to oral sex is not consent to vaginal sex).

I’ve found in my experience conducting One Act trainings that a lot of students struggle to understand the affirmative consent standard, and have a lot of questions about how it works in practice. Many of us are much more comfortable relying on body language, so enforcing a policy that heavily relies on verbal communication can be daunting.

But how do I ask? Won’t it kill the mood? Isn’t that awkward? Don’t you just know when someone wants to have sex? Is it really necessary to ask permission every step of the way? Does this mean that anytime I don’t explicitly ask permission, they can just regret it and call it rape?

Those are all questions I’ve been asked, on several occasions, by several students. A lot of those questions stem from a “but I just want to have sex” mindset, when the mindset should revolve around what both you and your partner enjoy doing. Affirmative consent isn’t about making things awkward, it’s about making sure your partner really does want to do what you want to do.

So how do you ask? Here are some suggestions:

“I’d really like to do ____, do you want to?”

“How do you feel about trying/doing   ____?”

“Does this feel good to you?”

“Are you interested in doing ___?”

“Are you enjoying this?”

“I like doing _____. What do you like to do?”

The possibilities are endless, so have fun with it! Remember that sex should be an ongoing conversation, where you check in with your partner to make sure they are excited about and are enjoying everything that is happening.

But what about just knowing when someone is consenting to sex? Why this change? Why use an affirmative consent standard, when, for years, relying on body language has been considered acceptable?

It’s simple: there has been new research  that indicates people are likely to freeze up when they feel scared, threatened, or traumatized. While most of us are familiar with flight or fight, there is actually this third chemical reaction in our brains – “freeze.” Because of neurobiology, people may not be able to speak up and say “let’s stop,” so they just disengage and wait for it to be over. Using an affirmative consent standard takes into account what happens in our bodies on a cellular level. Beyond biology, social norms may impact some a person’s ability to speak up. Statements like “maybe later,” “I’m tired,” “not right now,” “let’s just watch a movie,” or even silence are indicators that a person doesn’t actually want to have sex, despite none of those being an explicit “no.”

If you ask someone if they want to have sex with you (or do any other activity) and they say no, you didn’t “kill the mood.” You simply gave that person an opportunity to tell you that they didn’t want to have sex. Rejection usually doesn’t feel good, but neither does hurting someone. Affirmative consent is sexy. So play around with how you ask for consent, figure out what way is most comfortable to you, and practice good communication with your partner(s)! Being able to talk about what you are interested in doing together gets easier, and affirmative consent is sexy! Remember: even if you do find it awkward, a few seconds of feeling awkward is worth preventing harming someone.

If you’re worried that your partner may confuse regret with sexual assault, here is a great blog explaining why that likely won’t happen.

Can you think of any more ways to ask for consent? Post below in the comments!

Listen & Learn: Relationships in Music

by Hali Archambault

Have you ever started singing along to a song and then quickly realized that what you were singing was actually something derogatory or offensive? The use of catchy lyrics and rhythms can entrance a listener and it is difficult to distinguish how toxic the words really are. Music is such a large part of our culture and it can influence our thoughts and views, whether conscious or unconscious. These lyrics can skew individual views of what is “okay” and provide demonstrations for unhealthy relationships.

But how can one distinguish a healthy adfrelationship from an unhealthy one? One way is to view each characteristic of a relationship as a pillar that holds it together: a relationship cannot work if one of the pillars begins to crumble. So what are these pillars? We can categorize the traits of a healthy relationship into 7 pillars.

  1. Respect
  2. Trust and Support
  3. Honesty and Accountability
  4. Shared Responsibility
  5. Economic Partnership
  6. Negotiation and Fairness
  7. Non-Threatening Behavior

Music often doesn’t destruct all of the pillars– media in general is never 100% bad or 100% good– but we can look at several lyrics to identify any possible unhealthy factors exhibited in a song and how these factors can result in an overall unhealthy relationship. This is not to say that one artist’s music is all bad and you should never listen to their music, but it is important to recognize the lyrics we listen to and their influence on relationships.

  • Nick Jonas, Jealous
    • Pop music has normalized or romanticized the attitude of victim blaming. The title, Jealous, reveals a lack of trust. While there may be debate for a “healthy amount of jealousy” in a relationship, there are several lyrics that point to aggressive behaviors such as “I’m puffing my chest” and “It’s my right to be hellish.” Additionally, the song reveals victim blaming (“’Cause you’re too sexy, beautiful”) such that the pursued is too pretty and should contain that.
  • Sam Smith, Stay with Me
    • This song has a beautiful melody, but contains some concerning messages. Many unhealthy relationships go through a cycle: honeymoon stage, tension builds, and an incident. The unhealthy relationship does not necessarily go through each stage every time, but the honeymoon stage (the calm) makes it feel like everything is fine. It isn’t until an incident happens that people usually seek help. Therefore, the lyrics of Stay With Me, “this ain’t love, it’s clear to see but darling, stay with me” represents a plea the pursued may hear to stay in a relationship, despite it being unhealthy. Check out the lyrics to see how gender plays a large role in unhealthy relationships:

But there are also plenty of songs that display more healthy relationships! These songs focus on trust, equality, respect, and honesty. Here, we will look at two pop songs that convey positive messages about relationships.

  • Fifth Harmony, Miss Movin’ On
    • While this song does not portray a healthy relationship, it places emphasis on the strength it takes to get out of an unhealthy relationship, empowering those to “start from scratch.” It creates assurance that there is a way out and a way to “move on.” The inspiring lyrics can be found at:
  • Ed Sheeran, Thinking Out Loud
    • The premise of this song is a love that is long lasting, based on open communication, “I just wanna tell you I am,” and simple acts of comfort, such as “just the touch of a hand.” The healthy relationship is based on the support, trust, communication, respect and safety.

Check out this playlist that emphasizes healthy relationships on Spotify by LoveisRepsect.org.

So what now? It is important to note that listening to media with messages you don’t love doesn’t make you a bad person — it’s okay to enjoy these songs! It would be impossible to consume any media if we said never to listen to/watch anything that conveyed negative behaviors. However, it’s important to recognize that the media you consume could be affecting your attitudes. Ask yourself: What is the message of this song? And do I like that message?

What can you do right now? Talk to your friends about these songs, or other songs you have realized are either empowering or promote unhealthy relationships.

My One ACT will be talking to my friends about the way media affects our ideas about relationships. What’s your One ACT?

Updated February 2016

SAAM at UNC

It’s April which means…

SAAM

It’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month! There are lots of great events going on throughout the month at UNC, Duke, and in the community. Going to these events can be a great way to learn more about sexual assault, support survivors, and help make Carolina a safer community. Here are some highlights of the month:

Till Friday—Alliance Against Violence in the Pit

Have you walked around campus lately and seen everyone sporting awesome teal shirts? You definitely don’t want to be left out! Co-sponsored by Project Dinah and the Carolina Women’s Center, this week-long event seeks to educate UNC about the prevalence of interpersonal violence and provide resources. They are giving out 3,000 free shirts to be worn on Friday as a visible representation of UNC’s alliance against interpersonal violence.

Tonight, April 9th: Walk a Mile in Her Shoes (Old Well, 6 pm)

Sigma Phi and Kappa Kappa Gamma are hosting a one-mile march with all proceeds going to the Orange County Rape Crisis Center. They will also host a dialogue about how people can be allies in preventing sexual assault. It’s a great way to get some exercise for an important cause!

Friday April 10th: Campus Connections: Bringing Together the Sexual Assault Response and Support Community at Carolina (Campus Y Anne Queen Lounge, 2-4pm)

Come meet the staff that supports students who have experienced forms of interpersonal violence for coffee, refreshments, and conversation!

Friday, April 10: Project Dinah Benefit Concert for OCRCC (Local 506, 10pm)

Come join Project Dinah for a benefit concert for $5. All proceeds go to the Orange County Rape Crisis Center!

Wednesday, April 5: Coffee Conversation on Consent (Campus Y Anne Queen Lounge, 5-6:30pm)

The Carolina Women’s Center & UNC Men’s Project are hosting a discussion (with coffee and refreshments!) about consent.

Monday, April 20: Screening of The Mask You Live In. Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture at Duke University, 6pm.

This documentary explores how boys are socialized to become men in America. Afterwards there will be a panel discussion featuring local activists. Don’t have a car? No worries–you can take the Roberson bus there!

Wednesday, April 22: Campus Conversation on Creating Allies Against Sexual Violence: Creating a Culture of Healthy Masculinities within the Greek Community (St. Anthony Hall, 207 Pittsboro St., 7-9pm)

St. Anthony Hall is hosting a campus conversation about Greek culture, being an ally, and healthy masculinities to empower everyone in the Carolina community to help change cultures of violence

Monday, April 27: How to Help a Loved One (Chapel Hill Public Library, 6-8pm)

Ever not known how to respond when someone tells you that they have experienced sexual assault? This seminar provides tips and resources to be a supporter.

Hope to see you at some of these events! Check out the whole SAAM schedule here.

What We Can Learn About Stalking from Pretty Little Liars

Pretty Little Liars

How many of our readers are Pretty Little Liars fans? The season finale aired last Tuesday, and we finally (sort of) know who “A” is!

But really, we’ve always known something about “A”—Pretty Little Liars is a show about stalking and “A” has been stalking the girls from the beginning of the show. As an audience, we see a lot of behaviors that if we were friends with any of the four main characters, would be red flags for stalking behavior. Some of these include:

  • Being followed
  • Being excessively contacted, such as “A” texting the girls frequently when it is clear the girls do not want the texts
  • Threatening someone or that person’s family, friends, or pets
  • Receiving unwanted gifts and letters
  • Being stared at/feeling like you’re being watched
  • Damaging someone’s property (remember that time when “A” drove a car through Emily’s family room?)

Stalking is repeated and unwanted attention that can be through physical, verbal, and/or electronic contact. Stalking creates a hostile, intimidating, and abusive environment that can cause physical, emotional, and psychological fear, and it is against the UNC Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment and Related Misconduct Including Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment, Sexual Violence, Interpersonal Violence and Stalking.

As a viewer of Pretty Little Liars, I think often about how characters could be active bystanders and help the girls. There are a lot of things to observe that are red flags that something is off. Here are some signs to look for in someone who might be being stalked:

  • Anxiety
  • Missing classes and activities
  • Deactivating social media
  • Changing phone number and/or email address
  • Ignoring persistent texts or calls
  • Changing their routes
  • Avoiding places
  • Not wanting to go out (or wanting to, but not)

With stalking, the majority of cases involve someone the victim is dating or has previously had a relationship with (such as Ezra stalking the girls—but don’t get me started on Ezra dating his underage student, that is a whole other blog post!). A stalker could be anyone, though with most cases it’s someone known to the victim. Stalking is about the desire to control and/or manipulate a person. While stalking is scary, there are definitely things people can do! Especially as a friend noticing these behaviors, you can be an active bystander to help your friend. Here are some ideas:

  • Encourage your friend to save and document everything in case they choose to report. This can involve creating a journal and writing down each incident, the date and time it happened, and if any witnesses were present. You can encourage your friend to do this even if they aren’t sure they want to report. Just imagine what could have happened if Hanna had taken screenshots of all the texts from “A” so when “A” erased her phone when she went to report to the police, she would have had evidence!
  • Ask for help—check out the Safe@UNC website for more information about different resources on campus.
  • Let your friend know what you are seeing and that you care about their safety. This could be something like “I’ve noticed you’ve been screening a lot of your texts lately and seem a bit on edge when we go to Lenoir. I’m here if you want to talk about anything.”
  • Help them create a safety plan, such as offering to walk with them or plan what to do if they run into the person.
  • For reporting purposes, offer to help them figure out how to tell the stalker that they do not wish to receive any further communication. They only have to do this once, and it does not have to be in person—having documentation (such as a text or email) can be important if your friend does want to report.

As we see from Pretty Little Liars, stalking is incredibly scary and can cause extreme fear, anxiety, and stress. While stalking can make people feel out of control, there are things people can do to prevent stalking and help someone who is being stalked. Want to learn more about how you can be an active bystander and help make our campus safer and more supportive? Learn more about One Act and sign up for our last training of the year on April 10th! To learn more about stalking and reporting options, check out safe.unc.edu

Six Steps for Using Everyday Language to Help Prevent Violence

When you think about how you can help prevent sexual or interpersonal violence, what comes to mind? Learning how to be an active bystander through workshops or trainings like One Act? Keeping your friends safe when partying or socializing? Joining a student organization like Project Dinah? These are all great ways to get involved in violence prevention and make our campus a safer place for everyone!

There is not just one way to get involved or prevent violence, because violence operates on a continuum of different levels, ranging from overt acts to participation in a culture that accepts or normalizes those acts. For example, public health professional Lydia Guy conceptualizes violence as a continuum of overlapping circles, ranging from actions complicit in systems of oppression (like racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, or ableism) to less frequent, more overt acts of violence that most would agree should be treated as violent crimes. The actions toward the “more frequent” end of the spectrum (for example, catcalling or telling racist “jokes”) hold systems in place that make it possible for the “less frequent” violence (sexual assault, rape, or murder) to happen.

            Making our campus safe can start with considering how our everyday language and conversations shape the overall culture that allows or deters violence on our campus. Most examples of language that contribute to violent culture happen frequently and are less noticeable. These ways of communicating not only reflect the culture we live in, but also shape the ways we know how to describe and react to potential situations of violence.

"Languages" by Chris JL, Flickr Creative Commons
“Languages” by Chris JL, Flickr Creative Commons

Examples of this kind of language may include:

  • Trivializing assault or other interpersonal violence, such as casually or jokingly using the terms “rape” or “stalking” (“That test raped me” or “I was totally Facebook stalking you earlier”)
  • Language that contributes to the marginalization of a particular group, such as telling racist, classist, or homophobic jokes, using male-based generics (like “all men are created equal”), or other microaggressions (for example, assuming that everyone you meet is heterosexual when you ask about their dating life)
  • Language that contributes to the silencing or invalidation of victims/survivors of violence, such as victim-blaming or shaming people for their sexual history, choice, or expression (“what a slut”)
  • Language that conflates sexual and violent imagery, like saying “I hit that,” or someone got “banged” or “screwed,” that normalize the combination of violence and sexuality
  • Language that propagates the myth that men are unable to control their sexual urges (“boys will be boys”)—this is not only insulting to men, but can also perpetuate the permissibility of acting on these urges, without regard to the consent of sexual partners.

 

            The good news is that we can also use language to help prevent violence – starting today! Here are some ways you can help change culture and make sure people know our campus is a place that does not tolerate violence of any kind.

  1. Be purposeful with your words. Being conscious of the history and meanings of the words can be extremely powerful. It can be helpful to think about whether language choices make light of violence, shame survivors of violence, or contribute to the marginalization of certain groups of people. Make the decision as often as possible to avoid language that contributes to violent and/or oppressive culture.
  2. Keep your friends accountable, too! People may not be aware of how their language impacts violence. Gently pointing out violent or oppressive language from friends, partners, or acquaintances can create respectful and productive dialogue. Depending on the situation and comfort level, this may as simple as saying “hey, that’s not cool/funny,” or pulling them aside to talk later. It can also be powerful to ask others to identify any language that they think is violent, oppressive, or disrespectful from others.
  3. Stand up to oppressive “jokes.” Lately, my favorite way to do this has been simply saying, “I don’t get it… What do you mean?” The person telling the joke may have a hard time explaining!
  4. Use language to create a community of respect. For example, make an effort to honor the pronouns that a person chooses to go by, whatever they may be, or respect others’ agency by asking how they identify rather than making assumptions based on the way they look or act.
  5. Critically examine the media. For example, in a news story covering a sexual assault case, do reporters include unnecessary details — like what the victim/survivor was wearing, or their sexual history? How can phrasing affect the way the public — or the jury — perceives a crime? Overall, how does language affect the way we view the world?
  6. Educate yourself with some further reading! Here are some helpful articles to start with:

 

If you witness behavior that may cross a line into the territory of harassment or discrimination, check out UNC’s new policy for prohibited discrimination, harassment, and related misconduct for options and resources.