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

Monday, May 18, 2015


This originally appeared as a Guest Blog for The UnSlut Project. Please check out their website & "work to undo the dangerous sexual bullying and 'slut' shaming in schools, community, media and culture".

On Saturday May 9th I participated in the 2nd Annual Lace Up for RAINN 5K. I was really looking forward to the event again this year since it had such a positive affect on my life and career as speaker and advocate for sexual assault awareness. Originally I found out about the event as a proud member of the RAINN Speakers Bureau.

The event is set up as a virtual 5K so you can join in with your team or as an individual from wherever you live at whatever time of that day is convenient and for someone like me who would be walking by myself it's perfect. The goal is "to raise awareness in a fun, approachable way and to connect with others who are passionate about the cause". Last year the event did just that for me. At the time JoAnnSpeaksOut only had a website and Twitter account so once I completed the 5K I posted my picture and comments on Twitter with all the hashtags and as a result I connected with an amazing girl (also a sexual assault survivor) from Michigan. We became fast friends over social media having many things in common and in part because of her I was inspired to start my blog which is now going strong almost a year later.

Within the past few months I have expanded my social media presence for JoAnnSpeaksOut onto Facebook and Instagram and knew I would be able to spread the message of Lace Up for RAINN much further. I even had the confidence this year to create a fundraising page with a template provided by the event organizers. I set a modest goal and with the help of my always supportive boyfriend who assisted me in spreading the message I reached that goal. Because of all those generous donations 10 victims of sexual abuse will receive the help they so desperately need and deserve.

The numbers came in for the 2015 Lace Up! RAINN reported 210 participants nationwide with 651 miles run in communities across the country to raise awareness. Most importantly $20,879 was raised to support more than 2,000 survivors of sexual assault.

My fundraising page will continue to be active through the end of May. If you are interested in helping to make an impact on the lives of many survivors please consider a donation.

JoAnnSpeaksOut Fundraising Page

Maybe next year I will go the next step and organize a team but for now here is my picture as an individual participant.

Monday, May 11, 2015

SAAM 2015 Recap

I am excited to share that with a very full April calendar Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2015 (SAAM) was a great success. I attended many events, delivered several speeches and as the month progressed the availability on my calendar decreased. Interviews were conducted, articles and podcasts were posted, press releases were sent out and local TV news reported on my work as a speaker and advocate. It can best be described as a flurry of activity for 30 continuous days and at the end I was left with a overwhelming feeling of hope for the future of date rape and sexual assault awareness and prevention.

The month began by my meeting up with a date rape survivor just like me except in addition to counseling she found healing through yoga. Justine then used her writing talents to create a screenplay and develop a movie project called 2000vinyasas, a story similar to her own. You can learn more in my post 2000 Vinyasas - The Movie

The next day I was interviewed by an impressive young woman Jessica from GirlsSpeak. She was writing a series of articles for SAAM to be posted on her website blog. As a result of the interview I was quoted in two articles posted within as many weeks the 1st about Sexual Assault Myths the 2nd about Helping Survivors

The following week my podcast interview, recorded in March, with the awesome ladies of the Vagina Chronicles was posted. We were connected initially from my work as project adviser on the Tell The World music video being developed by Rob Hustle hip hop artist and activist. This project, currently in production, allows sexual assault survivors to speak out. Angela & Nicolle contacted Rob to say they would like to promote the project by interviewing any of the project advisers available. They generously allowed me to take up most of the podcast telling my story and then provide information for Tell The World. You can listen via this link Vagina Chronicles.

In the 3rd week of April I had the pleasure to attend an Evening of Innovation at USC Annenberg Innovation Lab. Through my work as a RAINN Speaker's Bureau member I completed an interview questionnaire for Prevail Games developing Bridge to Solas a mobile role-play designed to help survivors on their path to healing. Alexx Murphy and her intelligent, talented team of women went up against 5 other student teams in the 2015 CRUNCH Student Design Challenge + Incubator for a $10,000 prize for startup funding. Although the ladies did not win the ultimate prize they took home the People's Choice Award. A huge accomplishment in its own right.

Week 4 & 5 of SAAM brought about my scheduled speaking engagements. As a result of my E! True Hollywood Story interview in February I was contacted by a former Philadelphia DA intern who worked on my case 10 years ago asking if I would speak at their annual National Crime Victims Rights Week ceremony. It was a beautiful event honoring families of murder victims, reported on by the Merced CA newspaper and ABC30 Fresno in which both highlighted my speech and message to sexual assault victims.

Norco College invited me to speak at their very first Take Back the Night. I was impressed by how well organized it was and the number of students that came out to participate. I presented my entire story of being sexually assaulted by a serial date rapist, the legal and court process, counseling, healing and finally moving forward with my life. There were beautiful student singers, poems read and a quilt with squares made by attendees including myself.

Finally, even though it was the 2nd Annual Denim Day Rally & Press Event it was my first time attending. Peace Over Violence, an organization dedicated to ending sexual violence of any kind in LA since 1971, joined forces with Guess? Foundation to promote Denim Day LA & USA and beyond. There were guest speakers such as the Mayor, Police Chief and District Attorney of Los Angeles along with performances by Aloe Blacc and Maya Jupiter. I befriended a young masters degree student in social work and intern at POV. It was motivating and a lot of fun and you can read more about the message and how to get involved here Denim Day 2015.

SAAM was first observed in April 2001 growing out of Sexual Assault Awareness Week from the 1980's. In 2009 President Barack Obama was the first president to proclaim April Sexual Assault Awareness Month and it's been growing stronger ever since then. I was significantly more involved than last year and I hope next year will be that way for many other advocates and activists alike.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Sexual Assault Reporting & Repeat Offenders

I recently read an article in the NY Times regarding the difficulty rape victims (women & men) have in reporting their sexual assault especially on college campuses. Less than 10% of students report their assault to the college or police. There is a laundry list of why survivors don't report and one reason is that the reporting process for victims can be perceived as unfriendly. Most victims feel alone and fear the consequences of reporting their attack. What they don't know is 90% of sexual assaults are committed by repeat offenders and if we could stop college sexual assault offenders after their second attack we would prevent 60% of sexual assaults. 

Now there is a sexual assault reporting system being developed called Callisto that will provide a 3-part process for victims/students to participate. If the victim sees their attacker is a repeat offender and then chooses the third reporting option the first two steps become very valuable. See three steps outlined below:

1. Fill out an account of the incident online.
2. Securely save the report
3. Report now or later

As a survivor of a serial date rapist (although as an adult and not a college student) I am completely on board with this type of reporting system. My attacker committed multiple sexual assaults before and after he raped me. I have met and had long discussions with many of those women and they all wish they had known of the victims that came before them because then they would have had the courage to come forward and report their own assault. As a result they feel there may not have been the victims to follow them. These are feelings that I had to work through as part of my rape crisis counseling. It is not easily accepted or able to move past.

My assault included being drugged first and my attacker raped me while I was unconscious. I woke up the next morning naked in his bed, violently ill and confused. To add to the confusion my rapist was nice to me. I struggled to remember what happened the night before and couldn't make sense of it. Jeffrey Marsalis raped dozens of women in the same way and if there was a resource that I could have gone to validate what my instincts knew wasn't right about that night I would have reported my attack to the police immediately. Instead he went on to rape women for another year and a half before finally being arrested leading to two trials and convictions of sexual assault and rape. He will now spend the rest of his life in prison and never hurt another woman again but "only if"... Instead of focusing on the past the I can not control I chose to focus on the future and advocating for what I can control.

Callisto is currently in its design and development phase.

UPDATE: I was contacted by a member of Callisto and as their first goal is to create a supporting and empowering experience for survivors and in order to do so they are trying to get as much feedback as possible during the design and development process.
They are looking for current college students or college survivors of any age that were assaulted in college. If interested please fill out the brief survey (link below) and you will be contacted shortly.

Callisto Research Participation Form

Friday, May 1, 2015

Denim Day 2015

On April 29, 2015 I attended the 2nd annual Denim Day Rally and Press Event. Although invited last year my mom was in town for a visit so I was unable to go. This was the 16th anniversary of Peace Over Violence's Denim Day and the second year since they partnered with fashion sponsor Guess? Foundation.

The message of Denim Day is There is No Excuse and Never an Invitation to Rape. Its origin began in 1998 when Italian women lawmakers wore jeans to Parliament to protest the highest court of appeals ruling that a victim could not have been raped if she was wearing tight jeans because she would have had to cooperate in taking them off. 

Peace Over Violence Executive Director Patti Giggans organized the first Denim Day event in 1999 and in 2011 it grew into a national movement. It's mission is to 'Wear jeans with a purpose, support survivors and educate yourself and other about sexual assault.' Peace over Violence is a sexual and domestic violence, stalking, child abuse and youth violence prevention center in Los Angeles.

National Denim Day began as a part of April's Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Although it's just one day the theme this year during the rally and encouraged by Patti Giggans and Guess? Chairman Maurice Marciano was to continue spreading the message throughout the year. Guess? and its Guess? Foundation has become a very active partner kicking off a fundraiser on April 20th and donating $2 for every pair of Jeans and select accessories sold in their stores to Peace Over Violence which is a nonprofit organization with a total reaching over $150,000.

Also in attendance were Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti who gave an inspirational speech and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck who shared his decades long commitment to sexual violence victims as part of his law enforcement career. Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey told us the work her office is doing to prosecute sexual predators and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas gave an uplifting, motivational speech to all in attendance that day.

Finally, we were treated to musical performances by spokespersons and recording artists Aloe Blacc and Maya Jupiter. Maya Jupiter wrote and performed a very special song 'Never Said Yes' inspired by the film The Hunting Ground which exposes the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses. The song download is available for free through May 8th.

I met so many great people that day who all have the same goal as I do which is to spread sexual assault awareness worldwide and end sexual violence for once and for all. To learn more about Peace Over Violence, Denim Day or download Maya Jupiter's song I have provided links below.