To tell my story as a date rape survivor and communicate my message in a way that can help the most people.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Should We Leave the Year Behind Us?

As we approach New Year's Eve our natural instinct is to review the year gone by and look forward to the prospects of the year ahead of us. This is especially the case when we may not have had the best year, reached goals or accomplished everything we had planned. While I began to do the same, because I am very goal and task oriented, a thought had occurred to me which was 'maybe we shouldn't put the past in the past?' Reaching the end of one year and preparing for another is a very positive milestone no matter what events may have taken place. It means that we are strong and have tackled all the challenges that were put in front of us whether we reached the desired result or not.

I have had to do a lot of evaluation of the previous 10 years since embarking on my full-time JoAnnSpeaksOut mission/campaign in January 2014. I realized that each time I faced a difficult situation during those years I was better able to handle the next one. This is not something you know is happening as you live through it but only much later on in review. I have learned a lot about myself and grown to appreciate even more the family, friends and those professionals who helped me through the horrific ordeal following my sexual assault. What also came to light while evaluating the past including 2014 is that each time I opened myself up and allowed people in I witnessed the unconditional kindness of strangers there is in this world. I pride myself on seeing the good in people and avoiding skepticism as much as possible and there is a lot of compassion in humanity it's just a matter of being ready to receive it.

So I'm here to say don't be so quick to dismiss the past. Do not put the year behind you, embrace it and celebrate it. As a survivor of whatever horror you have encountered, trauma or health issue you have faced you have made this far by being brave and strong and sometimes vulnerable and it wasn't easy. But take all of that in and give yourself the credit you deserve for all that you've accomplished first before putting it behind and looking towards the future. Remember to love yourself first and all that goes with it.

We may not get to achieve everything on our "List" in one year but Life is made up of many, many years. Some good, some bad but all contribute to who we are as humans. 

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

That Time of the Year

These past few weeks before Christmas have been filled with a lot of personal reflection for me. Several reasons include: It's only the second year spending the Holidays in California with my boyfriend since I no longer live in NJ where my family and friends all live. It has been a very pivotal and productive year for me professionally and personally and finally it's this week (nine years ago) that changed my life forever.

Although I miss my family terribly at this time of year and all of our traditions I learned to bring some of them with me so Steve and I have made them part of our lives. We can also look forward to going back to NJ for Christmas next year as that plan is already set. 

When I started my JoAnnSpeaksOut public speaking and advocacy campaign I couldn't imagine the direction it has now taken. Originally I wanted to focus on what I began doing in 2009 which was tell my story to sexual assault advocates, speak on college campuses and expand to other venues and audiences which I am still working on. But once I got started so many more opportunities and options became available to me I just went with it. I was never planning on writing a blog or being interviewed for podcasts among other amazing doors that have opened up to me. It seemed to take on a life of its own which was exciting to see and experience.

Personally I have been so lucky to recently meet some really great women out here who share the same life goals as I do and start some, and what I hope to be, long-lasting friendships. It took a while to find women I could connect with out here like I did when I met my "girls" I left behind in NJ. Maybe I just wasn't ready to let anyone in and now is the right time. On top of all that I met a 1st cousin I didn't even know I had from my father's side of the family which has been estranged since I was young child and he lived a few blocks away! 

Now take all of the above and add to it the time of the year. It was nine years ago 1 week before Christmas 2005 that I received the fateful, life-altering phone call as told in my blog post 'The Call That Changed My Life' Although there would be many more difficult days, weeks ahead that one was the worst having become aware of my sexual assault, the violent predator I had come in contact with, giving my statement to the SVU detectives, being subjected to blood tests all coming to a head on Christmas Eve day by having the guy I was dating break up with me on a voice mail. I think of how it all began, how far I've come and how different my life is as a result of it. 

In the past 9 years I have been lucky enough to know unconditional support and kindness of strangers throughout the legal and counseling process. Over those years as I became more comfortable telling my story the love and support expanded to family and friends and this year when I was finally ready to show my face on a national TV interview and finally join Facebook that love and support continues to be shown to me as recently as over the weekend. I am thankful and grateful and never let a moment go by without acknowledging it all. To those victims and survivors who are new to speaking out I know how hard it is now but it does get better.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Hindsight is 20/20

Why is it that rape victims are offered unsolicited, useless advice after an attack? As if the suggestions offered to them wouldn't have been carried out while they were being assaulted if that was even a remote possibility. Do they think they are helping? Better yet those who take it upon themselves to judge a rape victims circumstances as to the amount of time it took to report her attack or her actions following the assault. 

Rape victims experience complex physical and emotional feelings during and after an assault. If they were drugged and rendered completely unconscious for the entire sexual assault as I was but knew sex had occurred and I didn't consent it's very hard to verbalize the attack to anyone. The victims I know floated in and out of consciousness while Jeffrey Marsalis raped them, some describing it as having been in a dream like and confused state. 

Reporting is also a complicated decision. Rape victims are ashamed, confused and question what they did to provoke being attacked. All you want to do is forget about it not relive what happened to strangers (i.e. police, doctors, advocates). Because I was drugged I wasn't even sure of all the details because my memory was fragmented only remembering prior to being drugged or after I woke up 8 hours later. How do you explain to someone what happened when you can't explain it to yourself? Why subject yourself to questions that you don't have the answers to?

We are seeing a lot of delayed reporting in the news lately with the Bill Cosby accusers. Their accounts of having been drugged and raped (some failed attempted sexual assaults by him) are decades old therefore being scrutinized by the public only reinforcing what the women thought immediately following their attacks. "He's a powerful celebrity, who is going to believe me?" Fans of the actor/comedian and skeptics immediately turn to the claim that a victim is in it for the money. Trust me when I say it's never for the money or the attention. If it were so easy to come forward and solicit monetary compensation or seek media attention then why wait 10, 20, 30 and almost 40 years? The victims are accused of reporting now for the same reasons the victims didn't come forward to report their sexual assaults originally. The skeptics can't have it both ways.

The public and media have the benefit of assessing accusers and their stories after the fact but the victim doesn't have that luxury because she is living in it. Let's give victims the benefit of the doubt because it's easy to go back but impossible to look forward.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Trauma-Sensitive Yoga

At a recent CSU Long Beach Survivor Recovery Panel I had the privilege of sitting with 3 other rape survivors, all strong, brave women who worked their way into healthy, productive lives after such heinous assaults. I shared my experience of the event the following day in a blog called 'Many Ways to Heal'. Although I didn't go into much detail at the time because I wanted to do further research on how one of the women found her way into a holistic approach of healing that I thought was important to share with as many as possible. It's called Trauma-Sensitive Yoga and what I believe to be an important alternative to the traditional counseling of talk therapy. I first met Zabie Khorakiwala at UC Irvine's Greek community Peer counselor training. Zabie is a Violence Prevention Coordinator for UCI CARE Center and was running the training group where I was an invited speaker. Until meeting again at the CSULB event I didn't know of her story but as soon as I heard the path she took towards healing and what she's contributed as a result I knew how important it was to spread her message and yoga program.

In May 2007 Zabie went out to celebrate senior sorority night with her other sisters. She was president of her sorority and this would be the last big night out together before finals and graduation. Zabie put her drink down before going into the bathroom but when she returned to the bar and took a sip of the drink she began to feel the immediate effects. She was sexually assaulted that night and describes the feeling of being an out of body experience, knowing what was happening but powerless to do anything about it. 

Zabie stayed in bed for several days following the rape focusing only on her medical needs but knew she had to seek professional attention. Although she called her best friend to accompany her she didn't disclose the reason why she was going to the Student Health Center. Alone in the exam room with the Nurse Practitioner she disclosed details of the rape where at that point the UCI police were contacted. It was then her best friend realized what had happened. Zabie gave her statement to the police but told them she didn't want to pursue further action as she only wanted to complete her plans to graduate and attend grad school and asked them to keep the report confidential.

The next few weeks and months were pressure-filled with school responsibilities, family health issues and the aftermath of a sexual assault and everything that comes with that traumatic event. She stopped wearing makeup, began dressing only in sweats and not taking her final school assignments seriously ultimately hitting a low point. As a result Zabie decided to make an appointment at the school counseling center. After revealing to the counselor her story of sexual assault other personal challenges she was having the counselor responded with 'That really sucks'. Zabie was left with a sour impression of the experience never to return knowing that counselor was ill-equipped. Later in San Diego where she began her new job post graduation but still not feeling well she visited another counselor yet still not finding the correct fit only feeling drained physically after each session. During the rape she described feeling frozen and the talk therapy was only bringing back those feelings without the benefits of a positive result.

Zabie was working at a homeless shelter and befriended two co-workers who talked about yoga, how much they enjoyed the practice and persuaded her to attend that very first class. She remembers feeling nervous while getting ready because it was something so new and unfamiliar. The positive effects were immediate feeling physically in sync and safe and can only describe it as "having her breath back." Following the sexual assault her life was frantic, chaotic and out of control with deep-seeded trauma. Yoga allowed her to be in the quiet of her own mind, be in her own body and leaving it all up to her to have the resiliency to heal. She had a powerful, transforming experience, signing up for a membership going as often as 5 days a week. After moving to Washington DC to attend graduate school she found a yoga studio there and then a new studio when she moved back home to Irvine.

The path to trauma-sensitive yoga began with teacher training at Core Power Yoga in Cost Mesa later followed by a week long training in the Berkshires MA at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. There 150 yoga teachers with 200 & 500 hours training all working with different communities of trauma to include rape crisis center advocates, police, prison employees working on restorative justice. She was finally surrounded by people "who get it" incorporating yoga with other services such as the power of body based treatment and learned how it's different than traditional yoga classes. This practice of yoga teaches how to empower the survivor to move in ways that feels comfortable for them and uses empowerment based language such as: Listen to what your body needs - You are always in control of your practice - I invite you to meet your body and breath where it is today. Other important details to be mindful of are props like straps and candlelight in the yoga studio. Sensitivity adjustments must be made such as no physical assists can be used with survivors only verbal cue's. The goal is to create a safe experience. 

Zabie created her own 8 week program for sexual assault survivors out of this training. She developed an important intake process asking if the survivor is ready to experience the courses intimate practice for the next 8 weeks. Also asking what injuries they may have due to self-harming, for example and are they suffering from anxiety, depression, currently meeting with a counselor and why do they want to participate in the program. At that time the survivor may share what happened to them and what's going on in their life and where they are in the process of healing. Upon completing the 8 weeks it's a transforming experience for the survivor. At the first class Zabie provides each student with a safety jar that they can decorate to help them feel safe and happy. She gives them an intention rock at each class to write what they intend or something they may need more of in their life this allows them to see progress they made and at the last class the jar is brought in so the student can share their journey each other. Survivors have supported each other through the court process, title ix, counseling, law enforcement, how to set boundaries with family and friends, adapt self-care into their life and being intimate again.

She now teaches her program 3 days a week: Tuesdays at the Orange County rape crisis center Community Service Program - Wednesdays at Be The Change Yoga in Irvine and for the UC Irvine students Thursday (8 week course). If you are interested in learning more about Zabie's program please visit her Facebook page or Breathe Network Practitioner page both links provided below.

Zabie is now co-authoring a book and this has been taken directly from her Facebook page.

We can't wait to connect with you and share your stories of inspiration and hope in Transcending Sexual Violence through Yoga: The Book! Has yoga had a powerful impact on your healing process? We would love to hear your story. Email us at and

Zabie has also published several articles and been interviewed on the subject.

Transcending Sexual Violence Through Yoga

The Breathe Network

Published Articles & Accomplishments & Video
Huffington Post, 'How Yoga Helped Me Transcend Sexual Violence'
Presented at the NSVRC National Sexual Assault Conference - 2012
Elephant Journal, 'Make Any Yoga Class Trauma-Sensitive'
Elephant Journal 'Why Talk Therapy Doesn't Heal Rape Trauma: A Research-Based Profile'
Breathe OC Magazine, 'Transcending Trauma'
OC Magazine, 'O.C. Yoga Class Aims to Help Victims of Sexual Violence'
UCLA, Feminist Magazine, Kickass Women
Rachel Grant Coaching - Wrote 3 blogs featuring specialized posture for home practice:
'Transcending Sexual Violence Through Yoga'
'Yoga Postures to Support Healing for Survivors of Sexual Trauma'
'Embodiment and the Creation for the Soulful Relationship with Your Body'
Pinterest Blog, 'Healer and Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Teacher'
Huffington Post Interview - Yoga: Helping Survivors of Sexual Trauma to Heal
Transcending Sexual Violence Through Yoga: 8 Tools for Teaching Trauma-Sensitive Yoga

Zabie is the perfect example of a woman who wanted to heal so desperately and wouldn't give up until she found what was right for her. Then in an act of selflessness she shared her personal story and the path she took with others in order to help them heal. 

“In the United States, we have built an incredible crisis advocacy response to survivors of sexual violence—sustained by the relentless dedication and unstoppable passion of advocates and volunteers who have put their bodies, minds and spirits on the line in a field that requires a 24-hour day, 365-day year commitment.
 Yet, after the advocacy in the Emergency Room, when the community support group stops meeting or for those who never had the opportunity or the safety to say the words “I was raped” aloud, where do survivors turn next as they navigate this (sometimes) lifelong journey of healing?
 Where do our advocates and educators, who are so often survivors, turn when the trauma they witness daily starts to merge with the trauma they worked so hard to heal, and the line between their trauma and their client’s trauma begins to blur?

It is time we think more creatively, more holistically, more honestly and more intentionally about how to best support survivors in healing; move outside of our standard practices and typical referrals to finally meet the body, mind and spiritual needs of our diverse survivor population.”
– Molly Boeder Harris, Founder & Executive Director of The Breathe Network

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Women Who Write

Through my boyfriend Steve I was introduced to a really cool longtime friend of his, Elle. In the year that I've been in LA we've run into each other at many social events. She had mentioned a monthly gathering that I might be interested in attending and thanks to her invitation yesterday was my first Women Who Write event organized and hosted by Vicki Abelson. It was an amazing experience and I can't wait to return next month. 

Women Who Write is a Reading for Women by Women Who Write and occasionally men too. Songwriters are also included among the guest speakers. My first meeting had an impressive lineup of talent: Musician Sheila E., Actor Activist Mike Farrell and Singer/Songwriter James Lee Stanley who so happened to have collaborated with Sheila E. over 30 years earlier.

The attendees are women of all ages from different backgrounds and their writing talents not only include traditional fiction/non-fiction but poetry, self-help, etc. Some have been coming for years and others like me are new to the group. Invitations come from other members. It was a very positive, uplifting, friendly atmosphere and for someone like me who is new to writing a place where I could soak it all in like a sponge. I was able to connect with several women and discuss other writing discussion groups they attend and have already been invited to one. 

The first guest James Lee Stanley has a list of credits a mile long and got up with his guitar to sing several of his songs. Sheila E. spontaneously joined in with shakers he brought with him. Then Mike Farrell got up and told a very inspirational story of his journey as a young man before he started acting. He then read a little from his book. Finally Sheila E. (who I was beyond excited to see) spoke about how she was surrounded by music as a child by her very talented family, how she learned to play percussion from her dad and the beginning of her career. She went on to talk about her current passion project of working with foster children and introducing music and arts back into their lives and the schools in Oakland CA where she was born and raised. She talked about a particular tour that brought her to writing and the emotional personal confrontation of being sexually abused as a child and her own speak out campaign on the subject. 

It was an honor to be there while she shared her path to healing from such a horrific experience. Sheila is a beautiful person inside and out with a relentless positive spirit. I was moved to purchase her book so I could learn more about her life and career. Afterward while she signed my book I shared my story of date rape and how we have a similar speak out and awareness campaign. She had some very kind words for me which I appreciated. I then mentioned how I saw her play in Philly in 1984 and she smiled as that was the very early days of her career.

A day later and I'm still invigorated by my experience of the entire event and look forward to learning from experienced female writers and hopefully improving personally and professionally.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Many Ways to Heal

This week I was invited to and participated in an event at CSU Long Beach. As a part of the UC Irvine Speakers Bureau I received a request to sit on the university's peer education group PAUSE (Prevention Awareness Uniting Students with Empowerment) Recovery Panel as a way to create awareness of sexual assault for the students on campus. I was asked to share my story of being drugged and raped along with 3 other women. Then the audience would be open to questions. 

This was a well organized event with about 100 attendees. If you know anything about these campus events that is quite a large group and considered very successful. I was inspired by the interest among the students. Panelists ages ranged from 20's - 60's and although similarities occurred in our stories we each had individual experiences to share. 

The first speaker was a women who 50 years ago at the age of 15 was raped at gunpoint in her own home while her parents and brother slept in their beds. Her rapist then terrorized her for a year afterwards calling and hiding outside her house. Although the police had been called and conducted an investigation (there were other rapes in the neighborhood that night) it wasn't thorough and he was never caught. She suffered for years and after having seen many therapists her healing came when she finally met a counselor who specialized in trauma. It was then her healing process began and brought her to a place where she can finally speak out.

The next two women in their 20's and 30's were both drugged and raped while they were in college, one at a house party and one out a bar celebrating the end of the semester. Each were in situations where there were others around (friends, party goers, bar patrons) who could have at some point stepped in to help but for some reason did not. Similar to the first woman one had seen many therapists but finally received help from a specialized in trauma counselor and the other survivor although didn't find success in traditional counseling had finally found peace through a holistic healing arts approach specifically yoga. Neither one of these two women had positive experiences with law enforcement and their rapists were never caught. They are now happy one having recently gotten married and one having a sweet new baby who tagged along with her that evening.

Then there was me of course and I shared my story of having met my rapist on, navigated my way through the legal and counseling process and began my speak out and advocacy campaign not only to help others but to pay it forward. As I listened to each of these amazing women's stories I again realized how lucky I am for having had the support from not just my family and friends but law enforcement, prosecutors and received rape crisis counseling first before working my way through those unqualified for such specialized care. Not one of those three other women was able to say the same which saddens me when I hear it.

Once we completed our speeches the audience asked a wide range of insightful questions and some even stayed afterwards to speak with us. I was proud to be part of an amazing event and meet the other courageous survivors who have moved on with their lives and are too now giving back. One of them said that being raped will always be a part of you but it doesn't have to define you and without having said the words to myself I try to live them every day.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Why Not The First One?

I recently met a guy who had been very honest with me about his initial reaction to the first Bill Cosby accuser and where his opinion now stands today. We were introduced through a friend and he asked what brought me out to LA and what I did for a living. After hearing my story of being drugged and raped by a man that also sexually assaulted multiple other women in the same way his eyes widened and he reacted by saying how sorry he was for what happened and then commented about the similarity of multiple date rape victims in my case and the Bill Cosby accusers. He said that so many women have come forward and now there is no doubt in his mind about what the actor/comedian had done to them. He also said when the first woman spoke up and told her story he was a bit skeptical but as the accusations and stories increased he was convinced of their legitimacy. We continued with the discussion for a few more minutes and then moved on to another subject. 

There aren't a lot of people who admit they are wrong when it about a polarizing subject not to mention how few have the open-mindedness to actually switch there opinion with such a hot button issue as Rape. As a former victim now survivor I can't say enough how much I appreciated his willingness to see the issue from all sides and come to a final decision. It is my hopes for a future where everyone can go through the same thorough thought process. Just because we make an initial decision doesn't mean that we can't change our minds at some point.

The conversation got me thinking though about why when hearing a horrific account from only one sexual assault victim isn't enough to be convinced of their accusation. I'm not just talking about celebrities but with any man including adults, college students and teenagers. Frequently more than one victim comes forward before any action (criminal or otherwise) is taken. Excuses are even made on behalf of the accused. He's a great actor. He comes from a good family. He's so young. Just to name a few. Is it that the crime of rape is so heinous people don't want to believe anyone can even be capable of it especially from someone we may we know? Do they think there is an agenda behind the accusation? Why does the accused get the benefit of the doubt first before the victim? Do we really think we know a person so well? I don't have answers to any of these questions. What I am certain of is that we don't really know anyone completely. I am not saying this as a sign of my mistrust of people or that I believe everyone is dishonest and puts on a facade. That couldn't be further from the truth. I actually give everyone the benefit of the doubt and have to proven otherwise. I have seen such good in strangers through the past 10 years that I know it's out there. My point is human beings are complicated and they only let others see of themselves what they want them to see. 

I will always believe the victim and their claims of sexual assault which have to be dis-proven otherwise. So the next time a sexual assault victim comes forward believe her (or him) first. Not vice-versa.

UPDATE: Given the release of the Bill Cosby deposition documents and the words coming directly from his mouth I only hope that those Cosby's fans who were on the fence about his victims claims are now supportive of them.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


December recognizes Giving Tuesday and I'm sure you struggled as I did to what charity or charities in which to donate. I decided on a select few that I thought needed it the most in my own opinion. They included Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence organizations, my alma mater and a sustainable climate advocate although I will keep the specifics private. #GivingTuesday is relatively new but a wonderful idea and it got me thinking that it can be a great stepping off point for the rest of the year. 

I have recently learned that there are other ways for my favorite organizations to receive much needed funds. One of them is through Amazon Smile. If you plan on doing any online shopping this season, and most of us will, then you can select from one of their spotlight organizations or a charity of your own choosing and that includes schools, non-profits, etc. You can also change it at any time. Amazon donates 0.5% of your eligible AmazonSmile purchase to your chosen charitable organization. I completed the process when purchasing my nephew's Christmas present and it was that simple. This is just one example of a purchase driven donation with many more available. See the site link below.


Throughout the year I also purchase products for myself from specific organizations that either donate a portion of the money back to their causes or have a buy one, donate one mission. With the gift giving season here it's another great way to give back when you're already going to be buying for someone else. I can personally recommend the following:

Joyful Heart Foundation - Supports Survivors of Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence and Child Abuse

Too. Apparel Women's Underwear - One pair donated to Women's & Children's shelter for every pair purchased

RAINN Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network - The Nation's Largest Anti-Sexual Organization

In the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's we may get caught up and lost in the shopping and parties but we should remember there are victims of sexual and domestic violence out there that need help and support all year long. The above organizations and many others are filling that need. It's so simple to provide that to them in a small way.

Monday, December 1, 2014

It Can Happen Anywhere

In a time span of just 6 hours on a Saturday night I saw 2 news reports, the first on NBC4 in Los Angeles and the second on CBS' 48 Hours. They each reported extensively on places where a large number of sexual assaults are occurring that I was completely unaware. As I've written before I do my best to stay informed as an advocate for victims of date rape and sexual assault but these are happening where the hierarchy either don't want to hear about it or don't want to do anything about it.

A report titled The Secret Inside the Postal Service uncovers an extensive list of reported sexual assaults, harassment and stalking against postal employees across the country. Victims are being attacked on their routes but even more alarming is that 1 in 5 sexual assaults were committed by other postal employees. One victim complained repeatedly to her managers yet they went ignored. Many reports of assault were investigated by the Human Resources department and never passed along to the postal service's internal police force and therefore never made it to the master list of reports by victims. The USPS stated they have a 'zero tolerance policy for sexual assault' but clearly are not following through with this policy. A link to this report follows.

A report by 48 Hours titled The Sober Truth investigated what's going on behind the scenes at AA-Alcoholics Anonymous. Members with criminal backgrounds including sexual and violent offenders are being allowed to attend meetings with everyone else. There is a well-known 13th step among members of harassment and unwanted sexual advances. Men who specifically prey on vulnerable women early in sobriety. A culture of sexual assault is going on by members of AA and other members are bullying the victims into not speaking out. Alcoholics Anonymous, the corporation, simply doesn't want to get involved. A link to this program follows.

In both reports victims are in places where they believe they are safe such as their workplace or AA but it's just the opposite. Instead, even if they are brave enough to come forward they are not supported in the proper manner or they are harassed into keeping quiet. This is unacceptable and we need to spread that message to both of these large organizations. Maybe we should also encourage these victims that there are many supportive organizations like RAINN and Joyful Heart Foundation or the hundreds of local rape crisis centers that will be there for them when they decide to speak out. Knowledge is power so let's share that power with the victims!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


The recent ruling from the Ferguson MO Grand Jury pertaining to the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson has brought out a lot of emotion from the public. Most prominently centered is the subject of Justice. The family of Michael Brown did not receive the justice their son deserved. The police officer Darren Wilson and his family did by his not being charged with a crime. I will not reveal personal thoughts pertaining to the case because because for the purposes of this blog they are irrelevant. I can speak from personal experience how a victim and their family feels after not receiving justice.

In 2007 my rapist was put on trial for sexually assaulting 7 women. Although I was not included in the trial my statement and original charges were part of the case that brought Jeffrey Marsalis to Trial. He faced 37 charges to include Rape, Sexual Assault and Unlawful Imprisonment. Seven women got up and testified with nearly identical stories of having met Marsalis on, then on their date having been drugged and raped by him. It was a very strong circumstantial case that went on for 3 1/2 weeks with the jury deliberating for 5 days. They only came back with 2 guilty verdicts of sexual assault of 2 women. This was not justice. Although 7 women testified at trial there were many other victims like me who were not included in this case. We were devastated. 

Just as the family of Michael Brown believes their was enough evidence for Officer Darren Wilson to be charged I along with all of the other victims believed there was enough evidence for the jury to return guilty verdicts for all the charges in the Marsalis case. I can say from personal experience that you feel helpless and angry and a lot of other emotions. Victims and families put their trust in the Jury or Grand Jury and sometimes they do not deliver the decision we expect. It seems unfair. What didn't they see?

I am 7 years removed from that trial and because my rapist went on to rape again he was charged and ultimately convicted of Rape and sentenced to Life in prison. This is all very raw for the Brown family and I hope over time they can somehow begin to heal. I also know what it's like for your personal life to be broadcast by the media and exposed to public opinion. Although my case did not receive the level of coverage that the Brown's is currently. Watching your personal tragedy play out on the news daily only adds to the hurt that you are feeling. Even worse is having some use it to promote their own agenda's. 

There have and will continue to be victims and/or their families in this country who will not receive the justice they feel they deserve but we have to trust in the system. We also live in a country where you can fight to change what you believe isn't working. During the 2007 trial in Pennsylvania prosecutors were not allowed to present expert testimony as to the state of mind of a rape victim afterwards. This may have significantly changed the jury's decision. Because of a tireless fight by some legislators this is no longer the case. I hope the Brown family gets to right what they believe was wrong in their situation.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Questioning Legitimacy

With the continuing reports of sexual assault accusations against Bill Cosby made by those victims brave enough to coming forward and the repeated denials and questioning of their legitimacy made by his attorney I wanted to provide my insight as a victim/survivor of a serial date rapist with similar circumstances.

These women/accusers have come under fire by some (public, media, etc) for the delay not only in their reporting of being drugged and sexually assaulted but as the number of victims grows whether or not some are coming forward to capitalize monetarily. I can't tell you how angry this makes me every time I see another statement reported online or on TV or a comment posted on twitter. 

Reporting a sexual assault under what you might call normal circumstances is already extremely difficult. 60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. Let's then add in the element of not only having been drugged but your rapist is a very popular, very powerful celebrity. I can speak to what it's like when you wake up in a man's bed naked, sick and confused. Your mind is foggy, you don't remember anything but you know sex had occurred, something that even if you had the opportunity to consent you weren't planning on doing so in the first place. I was extremely ashamed and wanted to get out of his bed and his apartment as soon as possible but had to fight against the extreme pain I was feeling all over my body from the drugs he mixed up and slipped into my drink. I couldn't make sense of anything that had happened and because of that I wanted to forget about it ever happened. I did not tell anyone.

Once I was contacted by the authorities in Philadelphia and made aware of the violent sexual act against me made by Jeffrey Marsalis and so many other women did I gain the courage to speak up and speak out. I knew what initially didn't make sense to me finally did now. As the investigation into my attacker grew larger and was reported in the news many more victims came forward to tell almost identical stories of their sexual assaults. 

This is what's happening with the victims in the Bill Cosby case. The women are coming forward to say he drugged and raped them too. They can't stand back silent any longer. He had a pattern. They don't want to be afraid of his fame and just as the victims in my case felt they want to legitimize the others that came forward ahead of them.

Now I can't speak to the feeling of intimidation that comes along with having been raped by a man with the public stature of Bill Cosby but I can speak to how scary it is to have your private life now so public. To have the picture of your rapist on the news reporting your story and being open up to all sorts of criticism especially when you have never processed what happened to you properly. I listen to these women being interviewed and their words and feelings mirror so many of mine. I have repeated the same words and thoughts over and over to myself. When I hear any sexual assault victim speak I know immediately whether they are truthful. So it infuriates me to hear anyone question a rape victims motives when I know right away they are not lying.

Thankfully you don't have to be a victim/survivor of sexual assault to show trust and compassion towards any sexual assault victims. You just have to be a good human being. That's easy!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

More Victim Blaming

Victim blaming is one of the biggest obstacles sexual assault and domestic violence organizations and prosecutors have to overcome. Why is it that with any other crime against a person the victim is not blamed? Burglaries, murders, carjackings, home invasions, muggings I could go on and on but you see where I am going with this and it is that when others stand in judgement or comment it's not directed toward the victim or anything they may have done to provoke a crime committed against them. What makes people so uncomfortable about a women being raped whether be it by a stranger on the street or out on a date or a celebrity or beaten by an intimate partner? Why isn't the first thought or words out of someone's mouth 'Is she OK?' not 'What was she wearing, was she drunk, what did she do to provoke such rage from a man???' 

I have been on the receiving end of victim blaming as a survivor of date rape. I sat in court and listened to my rapists defense attorney sweet talk a jury into believing that because my attacker fabricated his profile on and lied directly to our faces about his life as a doctor and astronaut we were bitter. He told the jury that bitterness lead to our coming forward and accusing him of drugging and raping us. As much as you know what happened to you is not a lie listening to someone else deflect blame makes you feel very, very small. It is for that simple reason I speak out and advocate because I don't ever want another victim to feel like that.

We have come a long way since the introduction of the Violence Against Women Act was introduced in Congress 20 years ago but unfortunately there is still a long way to go. The recent coverage of the victims of Bill Cosby's sexual assaults I have been watching this week have made me proud of the work done by all the advocates who have come before me. The reporting has been fair telling both sides of the story from the victims point of view and any comment from the accused side until an interview with a victim by CNN's Don Lemon. He questioned her actions during the assault and why she didn't react in a certain, specific way. How dare he??!! Would he pose the question to Bill Cosby as to why he was drugging an raping women?

The backlash for his comments have been swift and viral. Let's continue to call out those who victim blame. It's not OK and it has to STOP!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One-Year Anniversary

...One year ago today (October 25th) I walked out the door of my condo where I lived for 19 years and was the first home I bought on my own. I said good bye to my family and friends and New Jersey and got on a plane to start my new life on a new coast. My boyfriend was waiting for me in California in his current and my new home. I was about to face head on the expected and unexpected and everything ahead was new to me.

I had never been in a committed enough relationship where I lived with a significant other and besides the first 9 years of my life in New York I had only ever resided in New Jersey surrounded by family and friends. I had only ever worked for someone else and never considered for a moment being self-employed. What I did know though was that I was ready to do all the things I mentioned without hesitation. It was time to make changes that would be very good for me. Although I had the love of my family and friends back in NJ what I didn't have there was the love of a great guy and the respect and appreciation I deserved from a job that I put my heart and sole into for 6 years. Both of those were in California and I was really looking forward to what I knew I deserved.

It wasn't all rainbows and roses though because the first few months were filled with adjustments. I was moving my possessions into an already lived in apartment and combining our things was just short of a nightmare for this self-diagnosed girl with OCD and every time I got in the car to drive somewhere they were on roads I had never been on before to towns I had never been to before. I most certainly got lost a few times. Then there was that new experience of learning how to live with someone. I'll leave it at that. Once I was settled in and familiar with my new city it was time to start my new business which came with its own set of challenges but I got up every day and got to work navigating my way through it. By Summer I had made a lot of progress and was feeling very good about what I had accomplished so far professionally.

Aside from the challenges on the negative side there were a lot of firsts on the positive side. Steve and I finally lived in the same time zone and we did all the things we couldn't do the previous 2 years. Socially we keep very busy from attending sports games, theater, concerts, parties, have friends over for dinner and holidays and so far traveled to San Francisco and San Diego and this weekend our first time on the same plane together to spend the weekend in Phoenix to watch our favorite football team the Philadelphia Eagles play. We are having a lot of fun to say the least and still getting to know each other now that we live together.

In a week I will be going home (back East because CA is really my home now) for the second visit to give a speech at Univ of Penn and squeeze in as much time as I can visiting family and friends. I miss them a lot and I miss NJ too but not in the way that you want to move back but in a nostalgic way. I can't believe it's been a year but when I think of everything I have done it adds up to a years worth and more. Simply put I am happy and excited for what my new future holds...

Getting The Message Out

...Last week I had the honor and privilege of speaking (as I do each semester) to the Victimology class at University of Pennsylvania. I very much enjoy speaking to this bright, attentive group of students who always ask thoughtful, insightful questions.

Following the speech, after the students left class Dr. Kathleen Brown and I had a conversation regarding the importance of a specific focus in my speech which is to seek counseling after being the victim of a date rape/sexual assault. Her students are part of the Nursing program at the university and know frequently victims are encouraged to get medical attention and report to law enforcement but the discussion is less focused on counseling and therapy.

Dr. Brown also shared with me her recent involvement with the growing epidemic of human trafficking and the healing process for those victims. We talked about the latest obstacle to overcome is getting the message out to sexual assault victims. The message inclusive of, what type of help is out there and how much there is available. We agreed there is a need to figure out an efficient way to get the information to the victims. We have so many outlets (internet, social media, even the medical community and law enforcement involved, etc.) to get the resources available to the victims but have yet to figure out the best way to do so.

This is not the first time I have considered the issue. In an effort to promote my public speaking and advocacy I am trying to figure out new and innovative ways to get my message out. What groups of people can I get to tell my story to that have the ability to influence others? I spend endless hours each week researching and using whatever means possible to connect to those in a position of power. If I can email, tweet, message the right person I can start a domino effect that ends in expanded awareness. 

I feel we are all in this together fighting for awareness and as victims, survivors, advocates, counselors, concerned humans our voices are loud and strong. If anyone has an idea to share with me or wants to team up we can heal those victims of sexual violence so they can ultimately lead long, healthy lives...just as I did.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

...The first week of January seems to have reignited the news stories about comedian Bill Cosby and the allegations by multiple women whom he drugged and sexually assaulted. Not that it was out of the news completely but several things happened most recently. He began a comedy tour through 3 Canadian cities where protestors not only showed up outside the venues but spoke up during the show. His former "Cosby Show" co-star Phylicia Rashad made some controversial statements regarding the victims (stating "this isn't about the women but about a legacy"). Finally three more victims came forward. In the past month while this story continues to be reported I hear a frequent yet frustrating comment made by some in the public. Many offer opinions either way whether they believe the victims or not but say in this country we are "Innocent Until Proven Guilty". Every time I hear this my blood begins to boil and here's why. 

I would first like to say that I have great respect for the law and our legal process. I believe in our legal system and know that it does its best to be fair and just. It's by no means perfect but  in my opinion one of the best in the world. It is also not lost on me as a rape victim who has gotten justice and seen her attacker found guilty on multiple sexual assaults and rape that I am very lucky. I repeat this to myself frequently!

That being said I feel passionately about the subject yet the majority of victims of sexual assault who will never see any kind of justice whatsoever and I feel a responsibility to speak out and fight for them. The likelihood that a rape victim will come forward to report, the prosecutor finding enough evidence to move forward with the case, then for it go to trial and have a jury find the rapist guilty are shockingly low. So low in fact that 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. Does that mean that the public should only believe 3% of rape victims? That is utterly absurd. The crime and prosecution of sexual assault is monumentally different than other crimes such as a burglary, murder, etc that it's unlikely the victim even gets to prove their attacker guilty. This means that all those idealists out there get to stand up and say "Innocent Until Proven Guilty" and walk away with their conscience clean. Wouldn't it be nice if a rape victim could do the same by walking away but their lives are profoundly changed forever. I know that because mine certainly was and I'm one of the 3%. Imagine a victim in the 97% who doesn't get justice. Not to mention a statute of limitations on sexual assault and if that has expired the victim has no legal recourse whatsoever. This is the case with ALL the Bill Cosby victims. The law is essentially saying that because of a lapse in time the crime didn't happen.

As far as I'm concerned the belief of "Innocent Until Proven Guilty" is lame and a cop out under these particular set of circumstances and does a great disservice to victims of rape and sexual assault. I also think it's extremely hurtful to victims that they could be so easily dismissed by a simple statement. If the public was only informed enough to know how hard it is to get a rapist to trial they wouldn't be so quick to give the benefit of the doubt to the accused and not the accuser. I think it's time that more people believe the victim and question what the accused has done instead of the other way around. I know I'm tired of it and for as long as I can I will work to inform the uninformed!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Online Dating Predators

...Even after all we now know about embellished online dating profiles the predators continue to prey. I was a victim of the serial rapist whose fabricated online profile mirrored his fabricated life. He specifically created pictures to post on the website to match his made up career and took it to the next level with fake ID's and a staged apartment. He had everything he needed to lure women in to accept "dates" with him and then keep them interested just long enough to drug and rape us.

Numerous documentaries, news reports and over 10 years later men are still using the internet to meet women and victimize them. Most recently a California man Sean Banks was sentenced to 37 years in prison for raping two women he met on Christian Mingle and and as with my rapist Jeffrey Marsalis he maintained his innocence until the very end. Irrelevant now because both will be spending the next few decades in prison, potentially the rest of their life!

In 2011 a woman sued after she met and dated a man through the website and was sexually assaulted on their second date. The man had a violent history involving sex assault cases and if the website had a screening program for all members the victim claimed she never would have been violently attacked. had released the following statement: "Members should check out safety tips on the site, that it is their sole responsibility for screening other members and that what happens on dates is not the responsibility of the company". This is the same statement released when notified of my attacker Jeffrey Marsalis' numerous sexual assaults using the same website to meet women. It's lame legalese as far as I'm concerned.

The victim was not suing for a monetary settlement, only asking that screens its members against the sex offender registry. As a direct result of the lawsuit released a statement that ..."they will agree to check new members against the sex offender registry". Prior to the lawsuit eHarmony already had a system in which they checked the registry and other sites planned on doing so. This is an excellent way of protecting women from registered sex offenders but if the men haven't yet been convicted then it won't catch new offenders. In this case we can only trust our instincts and set up check in times or any other plan a woman feels comfortable with when planning on meeting a man for the first time.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Serial Rapists: More Common Than You Think

I am a victim of a serial date rapist and contrary to what the general public believes this is more common than stranger rape. The scary unknown man coming out of the shadows just isn't the case. Most sexual assault victims know their attacker, they are the scary man that we, for the most part trust, or we wouldn't be in their company in the first place. A staggering two-thirds of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.

A recent speech by a Michigan district attorney during an End The Backlog press conference specifically brought up the fact that rapists rape again. They repeat this violent act over and over again which makes their prolonged punishment (once caught and convicted) so vital. Rapists are not rehabilitated in prison because when released there is a high probability commit another crime including rape again. Unfortunately 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail so the available statistics are only on convicted sex offenders.

It's exactly the reason why when my attacker (Jeffrey Marsalis) was caught law enforcement, prosecutors and many of his victims worked so hard to make sure he was put in prison long enough where he wouldn't be released to prey on more victims. Jeffrey Marsalis believes he didn't do anything wrong so what would stop him from raping again. As a result of my experience and what I've learned I was driven to spread the message to other potential Marsalis victims and tell them they weren't the only one and encourage them to either speak up, come forward, get help or all of the above. They are not alone. I also wanted to tell my story and use it as a learning tool for dating women. My actions before and during the 'date' and how I reacted after all have a message attached and that is: Trust your Instincts. If I had only done that then the outcome would have been much different but I don't dwell on how I could have changed things in the past I just want to effect change in the future. If something good comes from something bad that's all that matters to me.

The sooner we catch and convict each rapist the less potential victims there will be and isn't that really what we are all working towards.

If you would like to learn more follow the links below.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Continued Media Interest

...In October I received an email from Joe Khan (the prosecutor in my case) who continues to field all media requests offered to the victims in the Jeffrey Marsalis case. He had received a request from a producer of a very large entertainment company and television channel. She had done a significant amount of research on Jeffrey Marsalis, his crimes and his victims and was planning on developing an episode/report for one of their programs. She was asking if not only would Joe take part and be interviewed but would any of the victims in the case be interested. Joe's email included a short introduction from him and included a forward of the email he had gotten from the producer so we could read it for ourselves and decide whether we wanted to contact her or not.

I responded to Joe's email thanking him for the information and told him I would be contacting the producer to let her know of my interest and that I would follow up with him. I then drafted an email to the producer to include the other interviews I participated in, what I accomplished so far as a public speaker and advocate for date rape and sexual assault victims and how she could reach me. She called me within just a few hours and we spoke for quite awhile. I was impressed with her knowledge of the case and the many victims and her passion for getting this story out to the public and keeping it relevant. We had an instant connection and she asked if I would like to be interviewed for the show which I eagerly accepted. We discussed details of a preliminary face to face meeting and an approximate shooting date.

Within the next few weeks we spoke several more times via phone and email and met in person once. She filled me in on the format of the show and who she was interviewing and how it would fit in with my interview. I was excited and happy to be part of another program that brings light to date rape and sexual assault and be able to tell my story and spread my personal message to a very large audience and one that fits the important target group I wanted to reach. Yesterday (Monday) was my interview and it went very well. The producer took me through my story of how I met Jeffrey Marsalis online and the details of our "date", the trial, sentencing and my experience with the other victims. She was well prepared, asked excellent questions and made it all very easy for me to say what I needed and wanted to say about my attacker and the subject. I was very pleased with how the day had gone.

On a side note: I had recently written a blog about practicing self-care as a rape survivor and how I hadn't been so good at doing so but I am proud to say I not only began my emotional preparation the day before but planned out my wardrobe, driving route and all the other details I had previously left until just before a speech, podcast, etc. Once I got home I only had a few minutes to decompress as Steve and I had plans that evening but he jumped in and helped me out and I had time to close my eyes and unwind in the car before we arrived to our party.

My experience with what is now my 3rd television interview is not lost on me. I woke up that day feeling grateful for those who were there throughout the entire ordeal but also continue to share along with me the importance of keeping the story alive. I was also feeling thankful for the media who continues to learn of this story years later and wants to broadcast it to their viewers. It is never lost on me how lucky I am. Yes I was a victim of a violent serial date rapist but what I took from it is learning of how many good people there are in this world and that is a very valuable realization...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

DVAM: A Look Back

Last Friday brought an end to Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I wanted to look back at what was accomplished in terms of promotion and awareness. The NOMORE organization teamed up with current and former NFL players along with celebrity directors to create a PSA that is being played during Monday and Thursday night football games and during the Sunday games. I personally witnessed the ad being aired in a football stadium during a recent Sunday game. These men stood up to say #NOMORE opening up the dialogue on a subject that has rarely been part of a general topic of discussion. 

In the past few months Hotlines have been flooded with phone calls and staffs had to be increased as a result of not only the awareness campaigns but the light shined on this horrible act of interpersonal violence. Largely in part after the video of Ray Rice beating his then fiance now wife in an Atlantic Casino elevator. As I had written in previous blogs this put a face on something that was for the most part kept behind closed doors and not talked about by the victims. Suddenly the media was talking and sharing their outrage and the public was weighing in too. Some very successful women including Meredith Vieira told their personal story of domestic violence and everything she went through emotionally and physically while being victimized. This allowed many victims to come out of the shadows and reach out for help. 

Then in late August the NFL made sweeping changes to their Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault punishment policy taking a very vocal stand saying it's not OK. Today Ray Rice and his lawyers will begin the process of appealing his punishment essentially turning back the clock. His argument being that he was punished initially by the NFL with a suspension and then received a 2nd punishment after the policy was changed. If this is his idea of turning a corner and repenting it's not the way to go about it.

From what I've learned about domestic violence abusers and as a victim/survivor of a serial date rapist, even after serving their punishments the abusers go back to their abusive ways. In my opinion no punishment for these offenders is long or harsh enough. What we do have in our favor is our voices. I've learned throughout my healing process that my voice along with the many supporters of family, friends and advocates is very powerful and I will use it for however long and far it will take me to stop violence against women (& men) for good!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Carrying The Weight

Today is a National Day of Action organized by the Carry the Weight campaign. An effort to get the public to "Stand with Survivors and Allies Carrying the Weight to end Sexual and Domestic Violence". You can show your support for survivors by pledging to join them in carrying a mattress or pillow. This national day of action is inspired by the activism of Emma Sulkowicz at Columbia University who was sexually assaulted on the first day of her Sophomore year. As part of her senior thesis that she calls an endurance art piece she will carry her dorm room mattress, that she was raped on, until her rapist is expelled or leaves campus. Columbia University is one of a growing list of Colleges and Universities in which students are filing federal complaints against them in violation of Title IX the gender equality law.

If you are interested in joining students, staff, faculty and everyday citizens across the country to make sexual assault on college campuses unacceptable I have provided the website link below that gives you all the ways you can get involved. I am also joining in by sharing my own picture here, made my pledge on their website and on twitter.

National Day of Action to Help Carry That Weight

Columbia Student Carries Mattress Around Campus

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

NFL Team Gets it Right

...I have spoken briefly about my love for football and specifically as a long 'suffering" Philadelphia Eagles fan, a team that I have followed since I was 12. My boyfriend, also being from NJ, has been a fan even longer than I have but now with us living in LA we either have to get up early to watch the game at our local bar or pray for a nationally televised game so we can cheer them on in our Eagles gear in the comfort of our home. This past weekend our beloved Eagles traveled to Phoenix to play the Arizona Cardinals and for Steve's birthday present we flew out and joined thousands of other traveling fans to attend the game. 

After tailgating in the parking lot and getting ourselves psyched up for a tough battle between two 5-1 teams we went in to take our seats and watch pre-game practice. From the moment I walked into the University of Phoenix stadium I became aware of the campaign by the Arizona Cardinals organization to promote awareness for Domestic Violence Awareness and by the time I left the stadium hours later I was thoroughly impressed and wanted to share with everyone all they had done for the campaign.

They had information cards by the concession registers in English and Spanish providing details for safety planning and emergency phone numbers for those having been abused and seeking assistance. Throughout the pre-game and during the game they promoted the sale of purple bracelets and where to purchase them for a $10 donation to domestic violence organizations in the Phoenix area. Finally they played the NOMORE PSA by current and former NFL players stepping forward, standing up and speaking out saying in their own words NOMORE to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. It's very powerful to see and hear that echo through the stadium.

There was also a gathering in Phoenix the next day by The Arizona Foundation for Women hosting an event in which former congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly spoke connecting gun violence and women's issues.

We as an informed public who are advocates and activists for the cause of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault often call out those people and organizations that are doing it wrong in order to affect change. I want to also call out those people and organizations who do it right and hopefully serve as a model and an inspiration to others. The football season is at the halfway point and there are plenty of games left in which the remaining NFL teams who haven't already done so gets involved as the Arizona Cardinals did.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Celebrities and Sexual Assault

...Within the past few weeks there have been stories of well-known Hollywood male celebrities who have been successful for decades in their careers but have been accused of sexual assault. One of these celebs (Bill Cosby) was accused in the early 2000's by multiple women and another (Stephen Collins) most recently accused of child sexual abuse. Both have the lovable public persona but in private they are violent sexual abusers. In the case of Bill Cosby a monetary settlement was made to many of the victims and the case of Stephen Collins is still being investigated. The difference with these two men is one man's crimes have all been forgotten except for an outspoken comedian who won't let the public forget and the other has suffered the consequences professionally and personally. Sadly the adult women drugged and assaulted by Bill Cosby did not receive traditional justice in the courtroom and get to watch him continue with his career but with Stephen Collins the criminal cases for the young victims are getting a thorough investigation. Why is that?

Is it that the adult women are scrutinized and victim blamed and it happened 10 years ago while organizations were still fighting to bring awareness to their type of assault and now we have come so far that the young victims of Stephen Collins have the benefit of time and experience by all parties involved in the investigation? I hope it's the latter and not for some other reason. I then read an article (see link below) with a long list of celebrity men accused and some convicted and sentenced of sexual assault. Each of their crimes are as different as the punishments, public's reaction and how bad their careers suffered or how good their careers were afterward.

Celebrity Men Accused of Sexual Assault

The message I wanted to get across is that just because they are celebrities and we invite them into our homes on TV or attend the movies they star in doesn't make them any different than you and I and your neighbor next door. It doesn't make them our friend and because they are rich and famous it doesn't mean we know them. They should be held to the same standards as everyone else and they shouldn't be excused from their actions either just because they played some character that we really liked on TV.

Most recently a request by Bill Cosby's twitter account posted a link to a meme-generator and it backfired. The people spoke by creating meme's with sexual assault and rape accusations. Bill Cosby may not have been punished by a traditional court but he certainly was in the court of public opinion. What followed was an Op-Ed piece by one of Cosby rape victims in which I have provided a link below.

Bill Cosby Rape Victim Barbara Bowman Op-Ed

Following the release of the tape where Stephen Collins admits to child molestation with a young female he was fired from the movie "Ted 2" and he then resigned from the SAG-AFTRA board. He is now preparing for a very high profile divorce from his wife of almost 30 years.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Violence Against Women with HIV

...Today is National Day of Action to End Violence Against Women with HIV. It is a day of action inviting people to join the call organized by the Positive Women's Network. The date was specifically chosen as part of October's Domestic Violence Awareness Month campaign. It's a call on anyone from anywhere to help raise awareness of these brutal acts of violence. The statistics are alarming and I wanted to do my part in spreading the message and hope that my readers will do the same however they can. I will be honest in saying that this is the first I'm hearing of it and I consider myself and do my best to be well-informed on the subject of violence against women. There is clearly so much more I need to learn and share.

Over 1/2 of women living with HIV have experienced intimate partner violence and of those abused women 92% of them are more likely to die than women who were not. Women living with HIV have been brutally murdered after revealing their positive status. In the past 2 years in Texas there have been two HIV-related murders which inspired this day of action by a group of women in the same state.

If you are interested in learning more and getting involved I have provided links for more information.

Positive Women's Network USA - Sign up for emails to learn more or donate to the cause.

Facebook/National Day of Action to End Violence Against Women with HIV - Post a message

Tweet using the hashtags - #SaveWomensLives #pwnspeaks #EndVAWHIV

I have also included a recent article on...

HIV, Intimate Partner Violence, and Women: New Opportunities Under the Affordable Care Act

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Update: Hazing and Sexual Assault

So frequently we (the public) get caught up in the latest news stories where it will be our topic of the day expressing interest, outrage, etc. then moving on to the next "breaking" news item. The Today Show reported on a follow up to hazing and sexual assault allegations by members Sayreville high school football team this morning and I wanted to pass along the information. As I stated below in my original post the school administrators were brave enough to make the difficult choice to cancel the Fall 2014 season so they could further investigate how far reaching this went and whether it included other players and coaches. The Sayreville Board of Education upheld the decision by the Superintendent to suspend the Head Coach and 4 assistants at its meeting Tuesday October 21st. They put the welfare of the victims and all of their students first before an extra-curricular activity. We frequently make judgement's on what not to do but the actions of these administrators should be held up as a model for what to do. Also, let's not forget the victims who have a very long road of healing and recovery. Ultimately it's for that reason that I followed up and re-posted this story.

Below is a link to the NBC report and my original blog post.

Board Approves Sayreville Football Coach Suspension

...A recent story broke in the news about a New Jersey high school who cancelled their very successful football program for the remainder of the 2014 season initially reported as a result of student athlete hazing. The media also reported how athletes parents were upset and angry for such a radical decision that affected an entire team for the misbehavior of a few players. I remember thinking right away that there was more to the story and said as much to my boyfriend Steve since we are both from NJ and felt somewhat related to it. Within a week as the media continued to investigate and report, the news that 7 members of the football team had been arrested for sexually assaulting younger players as part of a hazing ritual. It was an Aha! moment for me as my original speculation was correct and I saw that the entire football program was shut down by the administrators because of an ongoing investigation by the Middlesex County prosecutors office and they didn't know how far reaching it was and for how long it's been going on.

I tuned into the Today Show Monday morning (as I did every morning) eager to see the interview with Dr. Richard Labee, superintendent of the school district and Richard Ciak, school board president of Sayreville War Memorial High School. They became aware of the harassment, intimidation and bullying by the football players and decided to shut it down completely while they conduct further investigation of incidents in other athletic programs and extra curricular activities starting with the coaching staff. These two important leaders of the school district should be held up as a model for the way they have conducted themselves and reacted to what is a horrific incident. They put the well being of the victims first before the potential scrutiny they would be held under by the parents and the community. These men made a difficult decision but then again doing what's right isn't supposed to be easy. 

Although there were initial reports of some parents dissatisfied reactions those seem to be in the minority because a very large rally was organized in support of the victims and held over the weekend. Speaking from my experience as a victim/survivor of sexual assault the male victims in Sayreville need to know there are people on their side. It doesn't make what happened to them go away but it will help in their healing process which is a very long road to the end. Male sexual assault is rarely discussed or reported on in the media which can make these victims feel even more isolated but knowing the community and school administrators believe in them can make all the difference in the world.

This is not the only hazing and sexual assault report I have seen recently but it's the only one I've seen that was handled properly!