Happy International Women's Day!
Happy International Women's Day!

Thoughts from ASPEN's Director

As I write this there are many on-going discussions about sexual harassment and domestic violence taking place at the national level.   Though it is a positive step in the right direction that the issues are getting the recognition they deserve, it has been nothing short of disheartening to see the lack of leadership surrounding these issues.  One could say, even an absence of empathy and compassion--and in some cases, the abuser has been shown more support than the victim.

ASPEN believes the societal response to domestic and sexual violence needs to be a "no tolerance" stance.  There is never an excuse for violence against women and girls and there is no place for abusers in our publicly held government positions.  

At ASPEN, we provide direct services to survivors and victims of domestic and sexual violence.  ASPEN also believes that prevention education is vital in stemming violence before it starts.  That is why ASPEN works in the schools in all three counties we serve.  ASPEN is also able to provide awareness presentations and activities to any civic group or public agency.   If you are interested in learning more about our prevention education programs, please call the ASPEN office or email Abbie Bandstra at abbie@aspenmt.org.

All of this is made possible by the many individual donors, businesses,  and foundations who provide financial support to ASPEN.  Thank you.  We have a long way to go to change society's understanding and response to violence against women and girls, but with your help we WILL make a positive difference!

Heidi Barrett
Executive Director 
ASPEN (Abuse Support & Prevention Education Network) will host its 8th Annual Soup to End the Silence Fundraiser on March 23rd, 2018 at The Livingston Depot Center in Livingston. Adult price is $20 per person and $10 per child age 6 years and up, free for children age 5 and under. 

The event will feature soups, breads, and desserts donated by local businesses, music by Dave Eaton, roaming magicians, an open beer and wine bar, and a silent auction and raffle featuring items from local businesses and artisans. Two speakers will be featured discussing their stories of abuse and how ultimately, they were able to escape their abusers and rebuild their lives.

ASPEN relies on the support of the community in order to grow and offer new programs and services as well as to retain its dedicated staff and committed volunteers. We invite the public to attend this fun event, learn more about how ASPEN is making a difference in the lives of families in our community and across the region, and to support our work with a financial contribution. Aspen's services are critically important and the connections available for survivors are often life-saving.
Green Door Gallery announces a call to artists for the exhibit #MeToo: A Visual Dialogue. 
If you were moved by stories at our Livingston Monologue event (or by any stories in media or your life) and are looking for more ways to get involved in the #metoo conversation in our community, consider submitting, and definitely attend, The Green Door Gallery’s show. Information and link to event page below: 

"Over a decade ago, Tarana Burke created the “Me Too” movement to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault in society. The movement was popularized by actress Alyssa Milano in the fall of 2017 when she encouraged women to tweet it to "give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Since then, the hashtag has spread virally and the phrase has been posted online millions of times, often with an accompanying personal story of sexual harassment or assault. 

In this exhibit voices will be heard through images. What began as a relatively straight-forward movement in which newly empowered women were outing men, #MeToo has come to involve all genders as it looks at the prevalence of the abuse of power in the context of gender, class and race. To what extent can our voices come together and work toward a collective truth and toward a holistic approach to health in community? The hope is to create an exchange of telling and listening that is helpful in the move toward awareness, change, healing and prevention.

The exhibit will be held July 27 – August 17, 2018 with an artist reception July 27th during the Livingston Art Walk. The exhibition is open to artists of all genders and ages. All media is welcome. Art must be delivered, ready to hang according to Green Door standards by July 25th and all paperwork emailed by July 18th. For more information contact Lisa Snow Beaudin at wheatgrassaloon@gmail.com or 406.224.3895."

Dating Despite

Rape Culture

In a society where women are supposed to protect themselves against assault, it can make dating tricky

Single women: How many times has this happened to you? You meet someone, you exchange numbers, you text about a date on Saturday night. Your date offers to pick you up from your house or apartment and you immediately feel uncomfortable. You don’t want him to know where you live until you get to know him better, so you suggest meeting him at a coffee shop instead. He suggests a bar. But, you’re not sure if you want to add alcohol to the date either without knowing him. So you suggest the coffee shop again.
Things feel awkward, but you’re reluctant to explain yourself. You don’t know how to tell this stranger that dating is a risk-assessment for you. All of your decisions are based on the knowledge that, should things go awry, should he turn out to be a creeper, an abuser or an assaulter, your decisions prior will be called into question.
That’s exactly what artist RH wanted to convey in their comic strip, “Risky Date,” posted on their site Robot Hugs. In it, they say, “We are expected to constantly and correctly take actions to reduce the likelihood that we may be harmed by others and reduce the severity of the harm we endure.”
The strip came out in 2014, but three years later, it’s just as relevant as incidents of victim shaming run rampant. In July, the security director of a New York community college resigned after he was caught on tape blaming victims for their own sexual assaults. Fran Giles accused one of the victims of “seeing a meal ticket” by reporting her assault because she walked and didn’t run from her perpetrator. The school’s president, James P. Klyczek, also made disparaging comments back in April, asking of the victim, “What, is she stupid?” for giving her assailant a tour of the campus saying, “That’s as dumb as can be.” He resigned shortly after.
The Judgment Behind Rape Culture
“There’s an undue responsibility on women to protect [themselves] from sexual assault. We don’t do that for many other crimes. When we’re questioning the victims, it detracts from the crime,” says Tasha Menaker, director of sexual violence response initiatives for the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. Her job is to train those who respond to sexual assault—like law enforcement and domestic violence advocates—how to do so with the right know-how, sensitivity and understanding.
She says one of the biggest hurdles in her way is convincing people there’s actually a problem. “We still have people who argue with us that rape culture is a myth and doesn’t actually exist. They don’t recognize that it’s those attitudes and behaviors that contribute to rape culture.”
Rape culture, at its simplest, is the act of normalizing sexual violence. Arguing that women’s clothing and behavior dictates whether or not she “deserved” to be assaulted contributes to a culture in which rape is seen as a “normal” consequence of such choices.
In RH’s comic, they write, “My need for an environment and context in meeting you that feels safer for me is … based on my actual, lived experiences of evaluating risk and experiencing unsafe situations, and a constant awareness of a social support structure that will blame me for allowing myself to become the victim of a crime.”
Menaker says people have different reasons for wanting to refute the idea of a rape culture. They may have been socialized in a rape culture or brought up in a house where they were told it was not a reality. But it could also be a self-preservation tactic.
“To admit it’s going on means you’re at risk for sexual assault, and you have to recognize that if you come forward, you’ll be blamed and disbelieved.”
After a mistrial was called in the Bill Cosby sexual assault trial this past June, one of the jurors spoke out about accuser Andrea Constand’s testimony, implying that her choice of clothing and gift implied consent to sexual activity. “She was well-coached. Let’s face it, she went up to his house with a bare midriff and incense and bath salts. What the heck?” said the unnamed juror.
Persistence Isn’t Always Sexy
In terms of dating, the expectations for women often align with stereotypical gender roles. Women are still supposed to act and dress in a certain way, says Menaker. And men are supposed to be persistent.
“Persistence on behalf of the man is something to be valued. There’s this idea that if he’s not engaging in the chase, then he doesn’t want to be with me that much. It’s really challenging—the persistence myth is the hardest for us to change youth’s minds about.” She encourages people of all ages to disengage from the idea that persistence equals interest, and that not listening to a woman’s “no” is endearing. Instead, rely on honest and open communication in relationships, whether they’re romantic or friendly.
“Part of healthy intimacy is honesty. [A partner] shouldn’t make you feel shamed and embarrassed for you saying you aren’t interested, or that you are.”
Menaker says she hopes women are “becoming more comfortable being outspoken about their rights and boundaries. Women shouldn’t have to feel constrained by their gender role, and neither should men.” She says change starts with having conversations about rape culture. When she goes into college classes to talk to students, she sees a difference from just several years ago. “They’re far less tolerant [about assault] and far more knowledgeable.”
Article Accessed from DomesticShelters.org 
*If you have experienced sexual or dating violence and would like to talk to an advocate, ASPEN's support line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 406-222-8154

Continue the Conversation

Watch the video below to continue to think more about victim blaming and the discourse surrounding survivors of sexual assault.  If you are interested in learning more or hosting a presentation, please email abbie@aspenmt.org. 

PO Box 653 (Mailing)
411 E. Callender Street (Street)
Livingston, MT  59047
Office:  406-222-590224-Hour Support Line:  406-222-8154
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